Bart De Wever sows hemp, not for his own use but to remove PFAS from the ground at the fire station in the port (Antwerp)

Bart De Wever sows hemp, not for his own use but to remove PFAS from the ground at the fire station in the port (Antwerp)
Bart De Wever sows hemp, not for his own use but to remove PFAS from the ground at the fire station in the port (Antwerp)
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The fire station on Scheldelaan in the port of Antwerp will eventually be partly demolished. A new barracks will be built on the vacant land next to it, but the land will first have to be remediated. The soil is contaminated with PFAS.

And that remediation is done with hemp plants. Bart De Wever, who is chairman of the safety zone, sowed the first hemp seeds. “There is no point in flocking here anytime soon to harvest mind-altering substances. This hemp contains too little THC and therefore does not cause intoxication,” he warns.

“There is no point in flocking here anytime soon to harvest mind-altering substances. This hemp contains too little THC and therefore does not cause intoxication”

Bart De Wever (N-VA)

Mayor

What the hemp does do is remediate the contaminated soil. “These plants remove large amounts of PFAS and PFOS from the soil. The substance is stored in the leaves of the plant via the stem. After harvest, the contaminated and clean parts of the plant can be separated,” explains C-Biotech manager Frederik Verstraete.

That company makes building materials from hemp and other sustainable materials. The project on the grounds of post Lillo is done in collaboration with the city of Antwerp and Ghent University.

Harvest four times a year

Many older fire stations suffer from historic contamination. “Many practices have been practiced on the site in Lillo with fluorine-based firefighting foam, which contains PFAS. In the meantime, fluorine-free foam is increasingly being used and new techniques are being developed to make such extinguishing materials more environmentally friendly,” says Bart De Wever.

The trial on the post Lillo site will be completed at the end of this year. The plants are then harvested and an evaluation follows. The effectiveness of the hemp, but also how long it takes to fall below the PFAS standards in this way, is being investigated.

“The advantage of hemp is that there are four harvests per year. This means that with this plant we can remove quite a lot of PFAS from the soil in a relatively short period.”

Frederik Verstraete

C-Biotech

“The advantage of hemp is that there are four harvests per year. This means that with this plant we can remove quite a lot of PFAS from the soil in a relatively short period. With the results of the test we can also work on other contaminated soils,” explains Frederik Verstraete.

Frederik Verstraete: “The plants remove the PFAS from the contaminated soil.” — © Joris Herregods

Unbreakable and strongly scented

Because it is the leaves of the hemp plant that absorb the PFAS, they are burned after harvesting. “This is done in an environmentally friendly way without releasing harmful substances. All kinds of things can be made with the stem of the plant, which is PFAS-free. From insulation material for the construction sector to ropes and even clothing,” explains Frederik Verstraete.

The fibers of the hemp plant are certainly strong. Bart De Wever was allowed to try to break the fibers, but that turned out to be an impossible task. “These stems used to be used to make ropes and sails for shipping. That says enough,” said Frederik Verstraete.

The seeds do not contain THC and therefore do not induce intoxication.

The seeds do not contain THC and therefore do not induce intoxication. — © Joris Herregods

“It has been since my last visit to Amsterdam that I have smelled such a strong odor of weed”

Bart De Wever (N-VA)

Mayor

And the smell of the plant? It is exactly the same as the banned hemp, which does induce an intoxication. Bart De Wever put it to the test and held the plant to his nose. “Spicy. It has been since my last visit to Amsterdam that I have smelled such a strong odor of weed.”

Tags: Bart Wever sows hemp remove PFAS ground fire station port Antwerp

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