Brussels stops water purification

Since last Tuesday the refuse water of over a million inhabitants of the Brussels Region is no longer being treated. The refuse water is flowing into the Rivers Zenne, Rupel and Schelde untreated.

Water purification has been halted at the Brussels North water treatment plant due to technical problems.

The Flemish Environment Minister Joke Schauvlieghe (Flemish Christian democrat) has asked her Brussels counterpart Evelyne Huytebroeck (Francophone Green) to make sure that water purification is resumed quickly.

The water plant only came online two years ago ending the scandal of the discharge of untreated water into our waterways.

The plant is owned by a Franco-Belgian consortium Aquiris.

On Tuesday the company sent the Brussels authorities a letter explaining its decision to suspend water treatment "in order not to damage the installation and to ensure staff are not exposed to unacceptable risks".

The BBL, the umbrella of Flemish environmental organisations, got wind of the communiqué. Meanwhile the Flemish Environment Company VMM has measured pollution levels in the Rivers Zenne, Rupel and Schelde.

Mie Van de Kerchove of the VMM says that the quality of the water has deteriorated dramatically.

Marine life takes new hit

It is not the people of Brussels who will suffer from the decision, but the fish in our rivers.

For years the River Zenne that is vaulted over in Brussels was little more than a stinking waterway without any marine life.

When the water treatment plant came online fish returned to the river. Fish stocks are now under threat as a result of the new pollution.

Each year the Brussels Region pays Aquiris 51 million euros for the purification of our refuse water. The Flemish authorities foot 15.7% of the bill for the plant.

A spokesman for the Brussels Environment Minister says that treatment work at the plant was halted due to technical problems that surfaced in November.

Flemish Environment Minister Joke Schauvlieghe (Flemish Christian democrat) has asked her Brussels counterpart to ensure that water purification can resume as soon as possible.