INSIMEP - In Situ Metal Precipitation for remediation of groundwater contaminated with non ferrous metals

LIFE05 ENV/B/000517

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Koen GOMMERS
Tel: +32 14 245143
Fax: 003214245716
Email: koen.gommers@umicore.com

Project description:


The majority of the around 1.5 million soil-contaminated sites in Europe are polluted with non-ferrous metals. In many cases, this has led to the contamination of groundwater with metals such as zinc, cadmium, cobalt and nickel. In Flanders alone more than 5 000 sites contained groundwater that is contaminated with metals.

Currently, the best available remediation technique for groundwater contaminated by non-ferrous metals is to pump it up and clean it in wastewater treatment plants – i.e. ‘pump and treat’ (P&T). However, this is a long and costly operation, which often fails to meet cleanliness standards. It also often has negative effects on the local groundwater balance. Furthermore, the process involves the use of hazardous chemicals and the production of metal-containing waste sludge.


The INSIMEP project aimed to show that treating metal-contaminated groundwater onsite, by accelerating naturally-occurring biogeochemical processes, is a better solution than current techniques. This method, known as in-situ metal precipitation (INSIMEP), is more economical and more environmentally friendly, since the resulting metal concentrations in the groundwater are lower, no hazardous chemicals are required, and no solid waste is produced. The project aimed to demonstrate the technique’s long-term effectiveness and ease the way to its large-scale application by implementing the process on sites owned by the beneficiary itself.


The INSIMEP project focussed on demonstrating the in-situ method at three of the beneficiary’s sites each with varying contaminant mixtures and hydrogeological conditions. The project successfully demonstrated that the in-situ method resulted in the precipitation of metals to a level below remediation targets: (i.e., Zinc levels of <0.5mg/l, Nickel levels of <0.04mg/l, Cadmium levels of 0.005mg/l, and in most cases Cobalt levels of 0.1 mg/l) and achieved irreversibility of metal precipitates (e.g. at site 1 the irreversibility of Zinc and Cadmium in the field was achieved, while at site 3 irreversibility was almost achieved in which only <2% of immobilized Cobalt was released). The project results were based on two sites since site 2 was dropped due to flooding/hydrogeological conditions.

The project results highlight the environmental benefits of the in-situ method: no hazardous chemicals are required, no solid waste is produced, and energy use is lower (in turn entailing lower carbon emissions). The technique’s long-term economic feasibility and effectiveness was also indicated; although initial costs for the in-situ technique are higher, after 10 years it is shown to be more economically feasible with operational costs that are 40% lower than the traditionally used "pump and treat" (P&T) remediation technique.

Results of the INSIMEP project are expected to facilitate the large-scale application of the in-situ method in other sites, including at the beneficiary’s site at Zolder at which preparatory activities have already started. The project is expected to contribute to the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (by aiming to achieve "good" surface water and groundwater status by 2015), the Groundwater Directive (by preventing and controlling pollution through appropriate measures) and the Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control Directive (by preventing the further spread of groundwater contamination).

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Risk management - Site rehabilitation - Decontamination
Water - Water quality improvement


heavy metal‚  metal products industry‚  industrial pollution‚  decontamination‚  groundwater

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Umicore NV
Type of organisation International enterprise
Description Umicore is a metals and materials producing company employing 13 000 people worldwide. As a result of a century of industrial metal-refining activities, groundwater at a number of its sites in Europe has suffered contamination with heavy metals, a legacy the company is committed to cleaning up. Umicore has extensive experience in metals extraction, environmental research and engineering related to non-ferrous metals. The company has successfully managed a previous LIFE project (Graveliet, LIFE97 ENV/B/000398) on the valorisation of solid waste.
Partners MWH sa/nv, Belgium SMET G.W.T. sa/nv, Belgium Vlaams Instituut voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO), Belgium


Project reference LIFE05 ENV/B/000517
Duration 19-SEP-2005 to 18-SEP -2009
Total budget 2,764,542.00 €
EU contribution 758,236.00 €
Project location Vlaams Gewest(België - Belgique)


Read more:

Leaflet "Eu LIFE Project : In Situ Metal Precipitation for ...
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan (EN)
Publication: Layman report Layman report


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version