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The Senne is the natural receptacle for wastewater

The Brussels-Capital Region is part of the Senne hydrographic basin, which is part of the Escaut basin. It has facilitated the development of craft industries and commerce since the 11th century, including ventures like tanneries, dyeing, brewing, vinegar-making and papermaking. However, in the 16th century, the river became an open drain, and its overflows caused some fatal epidemics.

The first covered drain programme was put into place at the end of the 19th century, when the river disappeared under Lemonnier and Anspach boulevards.

The river's course was diverted during the 1950s, and a second wave of civil engineering work completely covered the river from Rue des Vétérinaires to Quai des Usines, where it resurfaces at the site of the plant.

The wastewater management plan

A wastewater management plan was put together in the 1980s to help the Senne regain its original role. The idea was to treat wastewater from the river's three sub-basins, known as:

  • the South
  • the North
  • the Woluwe basin, part of which is in the Flanders Region.

At the beginning of the 1990's, the Brussels and Flanders regions defined a joint wastewater management plan, which resulted in the construction of two wastewater treatment plants—one in the South of the Brussels-Capital Region and the other in the North.

The Brussels-South wastewater treatment plant

The first plant, Brussels-South, came into service in July 2000. It is situated on the borders of the Anderlecht and Forest communes. It treats about a third of the Brussels' wastewater for about 360,000 inhabitants.

The Brussels-North wastewater treatment plant

The wastewater from the North and Woluwe basins are treated by the Brussels-North plant, which has a larger capacity of 1,400,000 inhabitants.

At the end of a tender process, the contract, which included designing and building the Brussels-North plant and operating it for 20 years, was awarded to AQUIRIS. Operations started in March 2007.

The construction of the plant

December 1997 :
Brussels-Capital Region calls for candidates to bid to take part in a public concession including :

  • the construction of a plant located in the North of Brussels for the depollution/treatment of waste water for a population of 1.100.000 inhabitant-equivalents.
  • the construction of a 6.5 km sewage collector along the left bank of the Willebroek Canal.
  • the connection of the plant with the existing sewage network.
  • the operation of these works over 20 years.

November 1998 :
Aquiris, a consortium headed by Veolia Water, world leader in water treatment, is selected by Brussels-Capital Region to bid for the concession.

April 1999 :
Brussels-Capital Region publishes the tender document.

November 1999 :
Aquiris submits its bid.

June 2001 :
The contract is awarded to Aquiris.

September 2001 :
Applications for town planning and environmental permits are submitted.

March 2002 :
Permits granted for abestos removal and demolition. Work begins.

June 2002 :
Permit granted for the construction of the left bank collector.

November 2002 :
Start of preparatory works on the highways for the construction of the left bank collector.

January 2003 :
Environmental permit granted for soil remediation work.

June 2003 :

  • Building permit granted for the construction of the waste water treatment plant. Environmental permit granted for plant operation.
  • Start of plant construction and right bank collector tunnel drilling works.

October 2006 :
End of construction works. Start of tests.

March 2007 :
Plant start-up. 20-year operating period begins.

Given the industrial character of the zone, the project architects have adopted a contemporary approach. The architectural entity that was created isentirely enclosed and appears as a compact set of industrial buildings. The existing Right bank, Woluwe and Haren collectors that currently discharge into the Senne at the site is connected to the plant.

The new Left bank collector was constructed under the public highways that go along the left bank of the canal. These are Avenue du Port, rue Claessens and Chaussée de Vilvoorde. This project was done in a total of 11 sections working down to depths between 8 and 18 metres.

Each collector section was constructed with the help of a tunnel boring machine. This machine did the underground boring in which the pipes were placed. For this to happen the tunneling machine were moved to the level required using a specially designed shaft called the working shaft. The boring then begun.

As it went along in the underground progress, the excavated material was taken out through the working shaft whilst the rings that made up the section were brought in by the same shaft to be assembled in the tunnel that had been created.

The progression of the machine was controlled by a very precise laser-guided system. When it got to the end of the section, it was taken out through a second shaft called the exit shaft.

11 shafts - 6 working and 5 exits - were constructed along the public highway. They were built by the side of the road in such a way that any difficulties for traffic were as much as possible avoided. The shafts were of rectangular shape and took one traffic lane of width as a maximum.

The collector cut into the five existing collectors at Paruck, Drootbeeck, Molenbeek, Beysseghem and Marly, which take the wastewater from residential areas to the north of the Willebroek canal.

At the time of the construction, this wastewater was going into the Senne, except for that taken by the Drootbeek collector that discharged into the canal.

Visit the plant

Guided tours of the Brussels-North wasterwater treatment plant are organised upon reservation.