Once upon a time in Elmshorn: Soil remediation in a league of its own

Elmshorn, Germany – Even from a distance, you can see it clearly: A bright yellow drilling rig rises 28 m above the horizon along the new section of Schauenburgerstrasse in Elmshorn and drills down meter by meter. The purpose? Large-scale soil replacement. This might seem like a typical order at first, but at second glance there are real challenges involved. That’s because a piece of the town’s history is hidden deep underground, far below the earth’s surface. The suspected culprit: Anthrax spores in the soil due to the leather industry which formerly operated here. This is where the experts from Bauer Resources come in: they are currently preparing the soil for laying the road and rebuilding the town hall. 

A different kind of soil replacement 
This one-of-a-kind project in Elmshorn was planned with painstaking detail. Since July 2023, Operations Manager Daniel Thielmann and his team have been here on site and know exactly what they need to do. With a powerful BAUER BG 39 rig, the team from Bauer Spezialtiefbau is selectively drilling more than 1,500 m³ of polluted soil and then immediately backfilling the boreholes with clean gravel. So far, so good. But how are they supposed to handle the excavation material, which is presumably highly contaminated? With the utmost caution and care. “In contrast to less polluted excavation material, a suspicion of anthrax spores requires us to following a special procedure,” explains Daniel Thielmann from the Bauer Umwelt Division of BAUER Resources GmbH. The excavated soil is drained over three to four days in two large tents and then properly packaged in more than 5,000 120 l drums and disposed of at a hazardous waste incineration plant. Special filter equipment ensures that the air in the tent is extracted and purified. In addition, the water generated from the moist soil is collected in the tent and freed of contaminants using sand and activated carbon filters. “All in all, this is a laborious but necessary process. Definitely not an average site,” adds Daniel Thielmann. 

Between black and white
The work is not without risk due to the suspicion of anthrax spores, and definitely not to be taken lightly. For this reason, a black-and-white area was set up on the site so that no hazardous contaminants can escape outside. “Black means that everyone who enters this area has to change their clothing in a lock. Protective suits, gloves and respiratory masks are mandatory, not optional. Limited working phases and subsequent breathing breaks must be observed precisely,” emphasizes Site Manager Jens Ueberfuhr from Bauer Resources. Furthermore, not a single machine can leave the grounds without first being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. “Nothing and no one is allowed to leave the site so easily,” continues the Site Manager. Thanks to the smooth and highly professional procedure, the experts have achieved zero emissions. “For the inhabitants of Elmshorn, it is absolutely harmless to pass by the major construction site,” reports Yasmin Arndt, Contaminated Site Coordinator for Elmshorn. 

New order, new chapter
By the end of the year, the specialists from Bauer Resources will complete the remainder of the work. But this is far from the end of the project, as they have already received a follow-up order for 2024. “The task is similar: same site, same procedure, but this order concerns the material from the pipe jacking for the new canal section,” says Daniel Thielmann. “We look forward to continuing our work and the opportunity of demonstrating our skills once again. In this way, we are actively contributing to a new chapter for the town of Elmshorn.”



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