Antwerp fire brigade to use hemp to decontaminate PFAS-polluted soil

Antwerp's fire brigade has launched a pilot project using hemp plants to naturally purify PFAS-contaminated soil. Hemp plants can extract large amounts of PFAS from soil and store them in their leaves. 

This innovative project uses industrial hemp, not cannabis plants, and is a collaboration between Ghent University, Phytolutions and the fire brigade in the Antwerp port village of Lillo. 

The soil at the Lillo fire station is historically contaminated with PFAS from fire-fighting foam exercises, and needs to be cleaned before a new fire station is built on the same site.

"Research in this area therefore deserves our full support"

"The plant is not only good for our circular economy, but also has the potential to extract PFAS from contaminated soil. Research in this area therefore deserves our full support," said Bart De Wever, mayor of Antwerp and head of the city's fire department.

Hemp plants appear to be able to extract significant amounts of PFAS from the soil by storing the contaminants in their leaves. At harvest, the contaminated and clean parts of the plant can be separated. Those containing PFAS are destroyed, while the rest of the plant can still be used as a raw material.

The process is both sustainable and cost effective

The process uses industrial hemp, which contains very low levels of THC, the psychoactive substance found in cannabis plants. The process is both sustainable and cost effective.

Similar projects have been carried out by the chemical company 3M in Zwijndrecht. If successful, the system could be used throughout Belgium. Results are expected by autumn.


#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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