Emergency alarm warns of contamination with heavy metals

In rapidly industrialising China, environmental pollution caused by heavy metals is increasing dramatically. To limit the problem, VITO developed METALERT, an emergency response system for the Chinese government.

Incidental discharges of heavy metals are a major problem, particularly in the southern provinces of Hunan and Guangdong, where the bulk of the Chinese non-ferro mining industry and metal industry are based. In collaboration with the Chinese government, the Dutch research centre TNO and two local partners — the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning (CAEP) in Beijing and the Environmental Science Institute (CPESI) in Chenzhou — VITO developed an emergency response system. The system triggers an alarm when heavy metals are discharged into surface water.

The software is based on models developed by VITO in the past few years in order to simulate, among other things, pollution by heavy metals in the Antwerp Kempen region. METALERT shows how pollution will spread in water during emergency situations. The government can use that information to take practical measures, such as banning the use of polluted river water.

VITO's role

VITO developed the emergency response system and trains local authorities within the scope of METALERT to work with the software. Further research will decide whether the models developed can also be applied in other Chinese provinces.

METALERT in figures
  • Partner project with four partners in Belgium, the Netherlands and China
METALERT shows how pollution will spread in water during emergency situations.