In Flander’s mud, with the minesweepers

The evacuation of munitions still present on the battlefield has not stopped, since 1918. Each year, the Belgian demining services (SEDEE) remove 200 to 250 tons of munitions from the two world wars. The unit of Poelkapelle, in the heart of the former conflict zone, has become an expert in the recovery and treatment of toxic shells. The dismantling center took office in 2000. It provides identification tools (X-rays and gamma spectrometry), and dismantling tailored to different types of shells to respect both personnel safety and environmental standards.

"The shells exposed in the ground are fewer with time, finds a deminer Service Abduction and Explosives Destruction machinery (SEDEE) Poelkapelle. The biggest sank to 5 or 6 meters deep, or they not only tend to rise over time, but the machines used to work the soil will become deeper. "The SEDEE receives about 3250 collection requests per year, a figure that does not decrease. On this day of October where we followed a demining team, their schedule included the removal of nine shells from the First World War, one of which can still be charged, found in a food company in the Mouscron region in the middle of a pile of potatoes. "It is routine in the region, says a member of the team.

Unfortunately, the people who live here are used to it. But this habit creates a risk ... "Later in the day, the miners will collect 14 shells posed by a farmer on the edge of the road to his small farm Westhoek ... To pick them up, minesweepers must wait a formal request made by the local police and sent to the Staff of Meerdaal. Sometimes the SEDEE deminers are facing a legal impossibility to remediate land: "At 100 meters from the ammunition depot of Dadizele, discovered in 2004 with 70 tons of ammunition have since been dismantled, we know that it's remaining 100 T of ammunition, but the owner does not want them removed. Only a judge may require that ... "says a minesweeper. Other deposits on private land pose the same type of problem.


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