I have now completed one year of my research stay at Aquafin in Antwerp, Belgium. Most of my time here has been dedicated to the struvite pilot reactor located at the wastewater treatment plant Antwerp South and this is where I spend most of my days. During the past year I used to bike down to the Aquafin headquarters once per week to have lunch with the other fellows from the project, but during the autumn I will be the only TreatRec fellow in Antwerp. I would worry that I would be lonely if it weren’t so lucky that my colleagues at the wastewater treatment plant are a bunch of really friendly and funny guys named Jean, Luc, Rudi, Johan, Stefan and Patrick.
I received the generous Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship to fund my Ph.D. research. And as the time goes on it is running out. That, in turn, means that I have to start preparing my CV, scout web pages and look for contacts to get the next job, for a man has to eat. Simple enough. Yet now I discover a mental hurdle I was not expecting from a thirty-year-old me. I don’t know what job I want to do.
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA 13th of August 2017 : a group of right-wing- white-nationalist were gathering together and marching to promote their supremacy against whomsoever was/is different from them.
My stay at Aquafin, in Belgium, is sadly coming to an end. Today I look back and evaluate what I have achieved this year. I think the result is quite positive! I could develop and calibrate from scratch a Microcontaminant Fate and Transport model that estimates the concentrations of diclofenac in the Demer river basin for a particular month.
In my meagre 29 years (almost) of life, I have moved house 9 times. That is 9 too many if you ask me. I hate it, with passion. But there is one little detail that sets this last time apart: it is my first time moving back to the same city in a foreign country.
Last week my Facebook feed was filled with links reporting on the findings of a recent study listing four major actions that is impacting your CO2 footprint. The study got a lot of attention because the most influential one, far surpassing not having a car, skipping a cross-Atlantic flight and keeping a vegetarian diet, was the impact of having one child less, which suddenly took life-style choices for reducing your environmental impact to a new level. To choose bike before car and veggies before beef have a positive impact not only on the environment but also for your own health and economy so they should be easy ones. Having a child is somehow more deeply rooted in the human mind.
Whomsoever works in the field of wastewater treatment, knows how important and strategic it is the Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) processes. And, most likely, people dwelling in this wastewater environment, have heard –at least once- about the University of Cape Town (UCT) process.
When I moved to Antwerp in Belgium I embraced cycling, that very Belgian way to commute. Despite the occasional joint pain or getting wet, it is a great experience to cycle to work every day. Biking is a great way to move around fast, reduce your carbon emissions, help the community and enjoy the exercise outside while you are at it. I hope my Belgian bicycle story will show why cycling is a good alternative to the car and bus. And why more countries in the European Union should start investing into bike paths instead of three-lane residential roads.