The Flemish Environmental Agency (VMM) devotes its efforts to helping create a better living environment in Flanders, Belgium. Since 2000, Ward De Cooman has been employed by this Flemish government agency. "At VMM, people are concerned about water quality 24/7. We are continuously analysing and reporting on the water's condition." Since the beginning of 2017, Ward and his team have been deploying Eijkelkamp Soil & Water's Smart Sensoring to get an even better grip on Flemish water quality.
"To achieve and maintain high water quality, it is of major importance to be able to respond to disasters that can affect water quality as quickly as possible. Things that come to mind here are oil pollution caused by shipping, for example, or overflowing drain pits in automotive garages. The discharge of manure, silage effluents and farmyard discharges cause water quality problems in Flanders. Farmers ensile corn. In the past, this was done on the land. Nowadays, this is often done on the farmyard in concrete troughs. Silage effluents often seep from these troughs and end up in creeks. The watercourse then crashes within a few hours, and becomes smelly and dirty. All factors that affect the water's quality."
Passion for Water Quality
"At VMM, we monitor the quality of surface water. Flanders has more than 20,000 kilometres of waterways, but we are all very passionate about our work. One of our Special Water Analysts is a fervent cyclist. When he goes biking, he stops every fifteen minutes because he has spotted something suspicious in a creek. The Monday after a biking weekend, he invariably comes back with a list of sites where there is something wrong."
Ward de Cooman - Flemish Environmental Agency
"In 2011, we were involved in 85 site investigations and 206 incidents. For 121 of these, we are maintaining a dossier. By 2016, this number had grown to 714 incidents with almost 200 site investigations. The main reason behind this increase, is that we now are better known. People know where to find us and we have also gained a lot of experience."
On-site within Two Hours
"It is important for us to be on-site as fast as possible. Our aim is to be on-site within two hours to monitor the disaster, for example, by taking samples. This is a considerable challenge. Furthermore, we use a sampling scoop and we often have a single sample and therefore only a single analysis result. In certain situations, this may provide too little information for creating a supporting dossier that properly describes the incident.
"We therefore started looking for a new technology to chart incidents. We ended up with Eijkelkamp Soil & Water's multiparameter probes, which enable us to measure various parameters at any desired time. We use these probes to measure oxygen, temperature and pH every fifteen minutes, for example. This way we do not need to be immediately on-site but still have the needed measurements very quickly. The multiparameter probes help us with this."
The future lies in continuous measurement
"By working with the multiparameter probes, we are able to take continuous measurements and to acquire a lot more data with the same effort. We are now able to support our actions with thousands pieces of data rather than just one. Furthermore, the probes register the time, completed calibrations and the x and y coordinates; something that is very important. All of this data is received by our own system via telemetry."
"In 2016, we purchased 10 probes, four of which have been installed for a European INTERREG project. We will also be deploying them as part of the Winterbeek Project. This is a beautiful, 15-kilometre long meandering creek that has been used as a dumping ground for years. The polluted water bottom will be excavated as part of this decontamination project. In this project, the contractor must stay below specific turbidity values. The probes help us monitor this carefully.
In another project, we are analysing to what extent overflow affects swimming water quality in combination with precipitation. I could keep going with sites where we deployed the probes. In other words, 10 probes is really too few. But we have to start somewhere and I would rather have the probes suspended in a creek, than having one hanging in a closet.
Day after day, the Flemish Environmental Agency devotes its efforts to helping create a better living environment in Flanders, Belgium. As an agency of the Flanders government, the Flemish Environmental Agency forms part of the Environment policy domain. Its core activities focus on clean water, clean air and in-depth environmental reporting.
By making use of scientific measurements and analyses, the Flemish Environmental Agency reports objectively on problems and their evolution. On the basis of its many years of experience and expertise, the Flemish Environmental Agency proposes sustainable solutions and collaborates with professional partners.