Fact sheet about the green zone area in Moretusburg neighborhood next to Umicore site and start of works
Umicore's site in Hoboken has its origins in 1887. Back then, the German companies Metallgesellschaft and Degussa established the Sociéte Générale Metallurgique along the banks of the Scheldt River to extract silver from concentrates and by-products of lead ore. As the area continued industrial development in the 19th and 20th centuries, and with the arrival of shipyards and other factories, so did housing, then often in close proximity to industry.
As such, the site and the neighborhood grew closer and closer together, to a point where the residential neighborhood and the site, except for a few meters, were adjacent. These houses on Curie Street, north of the industrial site, date from 1958.
Umicore’s Hoboken site wants to minimize the impact of our activities on the neighborhood, not only through ongoing environmental measures but also through the future green zone. This forest area is a structural and sustainable measure to create distance between the adjacent residential area and the plant site. The site's impact on the neighborhood is greatest in the nearby streets: biannual lead-in-blood measurements among children aged 1-12 years consistently show that the children living closest to the site have higher lead-in-blood levels, on average, than those living further away.
To realize the green zone, Umicore has been offering to all residents who live closest - in Zone 1 - to buy their homes. This offer has been ongoing since the end of 2020. In addition, Umicore offered to buy the homes of families with children up to 12 years old in zone 2, a bit further away from the site, until the end of 2021. Almost all residents took up the offer: 186 homes in zone 1, or more than 97%, were sold to Umicore. In zone 2, almost 100 homes were sold. Umicore provided individual support to residents as much as possible in what is entailed in selling and buying homes.
The start of the works is an important moment for the former residents of the houses being demolished and for the neighborhood as a whole. The disappearance of the houses this year and the future green zone, along with a new road that will connect Hoboken and the town of Hemiksem will radically change the appearance of the Moretusburg neighborhood.
The green zone will cover about 6 hectares. Of those, 1 hectare of forest was planted on our site in the spring of 2021 and adjacent to this, in today’s zone 1, an enclosed forest area of about 5 hectares will be planted in 2024.
First concrete step in the construction of the green zone - demolition in two stages
The green zone project is becoming concrete after about two years of preparation. The first step in the future development of the forest area, begins on Monday, May 8, with the phased demolition of a total of 186 homes. The contractor will start demolishing 17 homes. Umicore received permission for this from the Antwerp Board of Mayor and Aldermen last March. The works are expected to take one month at most. Demolition of the remaining 169 homes in zone 1 will follow in the autumn.
This phased approach allows Umicore and the contractor to learn as much as possible from the demolition of the first 17 houses and apply those learnings during the second phase so the process will as smooth, efficient and safe as possible for local residents.
Safety in and around the work site and modified traffic conditions
In the interest of safety, the worksite will not be accessible to third parties.
Trucks and yard vehicles will drive off and on. The works will therefore alter the traffic situation in the neighborhood. The contractor will see to the signage in the affected streets. Together with the contractor, we aim to minimize traffic disruption.
Dust control measures during the demolition works
The contractor will take precautions to minimize the formation and spread of dust in the surrounding area. For example, works will only take place at low wind speeds. During the works, we monitor the effect of these measures with the most precise techniques and adjust the works if necessary.
The following agreements were made with the contractor:
- The fences around the site zone are fitted with dust screens
- Before a house is demolished, it is hosed down wet
- During the works we use fog cannon(s) that precipitate the dust by means of moisture
- Monitoring of dust is done with highly accurate equipment and through our own measuring stations nearby
- Debris and demolition materials are removed in covered trucks
- Sweeping trucks clean and spray the affected streets at the end of each work day (Monday through Friday)
Learn more about the green zone - independent study
An independent study by research firm Arcadis (in Dutch), in early 2022, showed that the creation of a green zone north of the factory site - between Curie Street and Achturendag Street - could help reduce residents' exposure to windblown dust. The positive effect of the green zone comes from creating and increasing distance between the site and the residential area, rather than a filtering effect from the planted vegetation. The impact of such vegetation buffer depends on for instance the method of planting and the type of vegetation.
Environmental improvement measures - declining trend in lead-in blood levels
For some time now, Umicore's Hoboken site has been spending 25 million euros annually on environmental measures which have successfully reduced the spread of dust on site and in the neighborhood and reduced emissions from our processes even further below regulatory levels.
Through constant research, development and application of new technologies and in collaboration with experts and authorities, we have deployed a range of measures for cleaner air, efficient and sustainable use of water and the reduction and prevention of noise pollution. The positive effects are reflected in the half-yearly lead-in blood results, which show a declining trend and which last autumn reached their lowest-ever measured level.
The site remains committed to and invested in achieving the best possible results.
The most recent examples of dust control measures at the plant site are six-meter-high windscreens around the storage areas along the Scheldt River. In addition, windscreens are installed along the river over a length of 220 meters and a height of six meters. The windscreens lessen the wind speed at the site and thereby the blowing and spreading of dust on the site and in the neighborhood. The wind speed is also monitored using the wind barometer, which indicates whether some logistics and production activities should be postponed or stopped. Since the commissioning of the wind barometer at the site in January 2021, operations have been adjusted more than 60 times in response to wind speed.
A neighborhood in change - connecting road
Not only the disappearance of the houses this year and the future green zone, but also a new connecting road, which will link the towns of Hoboken and Hemiksem, will radically change the Moretusburg neighborhood. This public road with a free-flowing bicycle path will replace the Adolf Greinerstraat, which now runs through the Umicore’s Hoboken industrial site. The new road will be built on the plant’s grounds, next to future green zone. The Adolf Greinerstraat will cease to be a public road and become part of the factory site. The project will benefit the road safety of all road users - in both the surrounding area and the site itself. The works are scheduled to begin in 2024.