Expertise in water
From as far back as I can remember, I was very much into exploring. When I was very small, I could not see a trail going into a wood or forest without having a burning desire to follow it and see where it went to and what was at the far end. And in particular, water was fascinating to me.
My school days were certainly not the happiest time of my life. I managed to get through high school somehow and was accepted for university, but dropped out of law school early on. I was always happier to be be out and about, climbing, exploring, cave diving, working with wood, investigating water.
After exploring every available cave in Belgium and other parts of the world and making many new discoveries, there came a time in my life where I had to decide what I was going to do. One has to earn a living in order to eat, bring up a family and live. I had gone as far as I could in the field of cave diving.
It struck me that water was an extraordinary feature of this planet. Water covers 71% of the earth’s surface. And I was fascinated by the concept that if I dipped my finger in the water in Antwerp, I was directly in contact with the same substance that was washing up on the beaches in Thailand or Australia. I thought if I could have an effect on the water in Belgium, I would have an effect on the water all over the world.
I made the decision to get involved in commercial diving. I would make my living from developing expertise in this essential ingredient to life on this planet and applying it in ways that would be useful and valuable. Thus I founded HYDREX which is a made up word meaning EXPERTISE IN WATER.
It was while busy with commercial diving and in particular underwater ship hull maintenance that I became aware of the dreadful state of pollution of the waterways and in particular the sediment in port areas, around shipyards and further afield. It was quite a revelation to me. Most people never come in contact with what goes on under the water. You don’t see it until you go down there and look.
This was the beginning of a long project, still going on to this day, to do what I could to turn off the tap of pollution of the water and to clean up the planet’s rivers, seas and oceans. This was to me a big enough goal, a sufficiently important endeavor to spend my life working on.
I traced the majority of the pollution to one single source: ship hull antifouling coatings. These were designed to continually leach heavy metals, biocides and other pollutants into the water. So in the 1990s I developed a hull coating system that was completely non-toxic, that could be maintained by mechanical removal of the fouling, and that would stay intact and smooth for the life of the ship without the need for repainting and without the use of sacrificial anodes, another source of marine pollution: Ecospeed.
This coating system has been proven in many, many applications. There remains the industrializing of the cleaning which I am currently working on. With this aspect in place, the excuse to pollute the oceans with heavy metals and biocides will be entirely removed.
But my interest in developing expertise in water did not end there. There is still the effects of all these decades of pollution to clean up. I have been working on a contained dredging system which can clean up contaminated sediment without putting the poisons back into solution or suspension in the water. This patented technology has been proven and is ready to be scaled up to and deployed in the many, many areas of the planet where polluted sediment is a problem.
Another area of attention which addresses the subject of pollution and energy resources is renewable energy from the currents, tides and waves which are constantly moving and which hold enormous potential energy which is waiting to be converted into electricity which can light cities and provide all the electricity we have come to need. The energy exists, whether it is harnessed or not. The trick is to find ways to harness it efficiently. They do exist. And while our research is not complete, it is well under way and showing great promise.
And so the research and the work continues. It’s an uphill climb as there are many vested interests involved and many years of damage to undo, but in the end the work simply must be done for the future of the planet. It is a large undertaking with a huge reward. We welcome any help we can get.