Brussels native remediates heavily contaminated soil in Vietnam


The mining engineer and geologist, Jan Haemers, founded Haemers Technologies in the late 1990s. The company specialises in an advanced technique that remediates soils contaminated by chemicals or by a leaking fuel oil tank and does so efficiently, completely and more cheaply than conventional methods. So successful is this technique that the entire world is keen to learn more about this new approach.

Traditionally, contaminated soil is excavated and cleaned in a giant drum kiln, before being transported back to the site by truck. That method is not only expensive, but it also consumes large amounts of energy. Haemers Technologies, which is based alongside the canal in the Brussels suburb of Neder-over-Heembeek, takes a different approach involving thermal remediation, a system that makes use of pipes buried in the ground. The system is heated to a temperature of 300 to 400°C so that the contamination evaporates. The toxic gas is then sucked out of the soil and processed or burned at over 1,000°C. Not a single molecule of waste is left behind and the level of dioxins in the air also does not increase at all.

Haemers' expertise quickly drew interest both from at home and abroad. When remediating the soil underneath a building owned by Bayer on the Avenue Louise in Brussels in 2010, the project would only be paid for if the soil became clean again, and it did! On an international level, the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing has already been remediated successfully and, hopefully, Haemers will soon get to help clean up Agent Orange in the soil of Vietnam. Agent Orange is a chemical defoliant that was applied above forests and fields that discharged massive non-biodegradable, toxic dioxins during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s.