The story

Sandy Soils Region lies in the south border area of the Low Lands. 130 years ago a number of zinc producing plants settled down there. The smelters were separated from each other by lines on a paper map.

 

Three zinc smelters are still alive. Half a century ago a change was made from one technology to another. There were efforts and regulations that lead to a different attitude towards the waste management. However the smelters already had a contamination history of hundred years and high contents of heavy metals can be expected in the soils and possibly water around the area. Much effort was put into making all this go away and label it Historical Pollution.

 

Grounds were excavated, water was drained, new mountains were created covering waste, covered by plastic, covered by gravel, covered by soil brought from somewhere where there is now a lake. There was transfer of water and move of earth and an alchemistic birth of electric energy now laying on the mountains in the shape of solar panels.

The plants continued to produce raw material for human material dreams. 

 

These days another line separates two worlds and forces them to co exist. The industrial world and the so called natural. The soils in the region are anthropologically enriched in Cd and Zn by the historical pollution and returning the landscape in its original state is no longer possible.

However new forms of life seem to evolve around the area. New alternative ecosystems, not necessarily resembling what was present before and not knowing how the future will affect them. Some said that Remediation of such sites might in fact destroy the new habitat.

Due to this unique condition, this site was the first – with many to follow- where an industrially polluted area was protected by law for nature conservation.

 

Stories of flora and fauna

The violet

The zinc violet ( Viola lutea subsp. Calaminarina , synonym : Viola calaminarina ) is a subspecies of the violet family ( Violaceae ).  The plant in its native location  has adapted to an excess of zinc from an old dump from a former mining company.  The plant was then spread northwards through the river. The zinc violet thrives very well under zinc rich conditions.

 Because the mining activities ceazed decades ago the zinc concentrations are slowly decreasing. As a result the zinc violet is becoming increasingly rare. It has even been suggested that zinc should be added to the soils to ensure that V.C. remains part of the national flora.  The zinc pansy is legally protected and is on the  Red List of plants as very rare and strongly declined.

Naming (Etymology) : Viola means violet, because of the violet-blue color that occurs in the (most) flowers of the violets. The genus name Viola originally comes from the Greek (w) ion (fragrant plant). Lutea means yellow and calaminaria means zinc ore containing soil.

The moss

Scopelophila cataractae is one of the 'copper mosses', mosses that are able to grow on substrates that are characterized by high concentrations of metals such as copper and zinc, but also iron and cadmium.  Scopelophila cataractae is a very rare species of moss that grows primarily on soils contaminated with zinc .

Scopelophila cataractae is found in some sites including the zinc factory in Budel-Dorplein in South Brabant, where the species was first found in 1985, and in all sorts of places in the area where slag from this factory was used for paving. Samples of the pieces in areas around is known to be increasing fast.

The beetle

Cylindera germanica  is a species of beetle from the family of Carabidae.

 Cylindera germanica has become very rare throughout North-West Europe. In this region only one site remains: the site of the zinc plant in Budel-Dorplein. The pollution of zinc ashes in the vicinity of the zinc plant has its advantages for the beetle.  the vegetation on the site is scanty and these beetles need that as they also need a lot of sun which low vegetation allows . 

The decline has to do with the eutrophication of sparse vegetation and the fact that the German sand beetle cannot spread over large distances The habitat of the sand-beetle beetle on the factory site is threatened by the growth of the bare soil. Vegetation there grows slowly but still something started to happen about this. In parts of the terrain that are no longer a suitable habitat, the vegetation has been removed in a number of places this spring and shallow teasing has been applied in other places.

The falcon

The  falcon has set its nest on the highest peak of the factory’s buildings for some years now. It’s warm, quiet and high. As falcons have exceptional vision this high nest allows it to watch over the solar fields for prey. Rabbits who are digging the soil under the solar panels in order to make their own nests while at the same time are a danger to the plastic covers underneath. The plastics were placed there to keep the underground safe from previous contamination.  The falcon slowly transforms itself into a statue of the flying guardian protecting human secrets underground.

The solar seeds

Solar panel fields are  now introduced as an alternative to phytoremediation. They can easily cover not only  large landscapes but also mistakes of the past. Historical pollution belongs to the past. Solar panels are a step forward and are here to replace traditional crops. Innovative achievements in the field of biotechnology and advanced agriculture are working to provide solar seeds. Seeds that will grow into solar panels which will then grow old and multiply.

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