A brief history
In the post-war years, the Eerbeek stream (effectively the local spring) served as the discharge channel for the then five paper mills in Eerbeek. Baron De Vos van Steenwijk, an agricultural engineer in Wageningen, came up with the idea of using the material (wood fibres) suspended in the stream water to supply organic material to improve the poor soils on the Veluwe. This idea led to the establishment of the ENPOM (Eerste Nederlandse Pulp Ontginnings Maatschappij – First Dutch Pulp Extraction Company). Although good for the stream water, the initiative by the man who became known as the ‘Mud Baron’ ended in bankruptcy, in 1960. Because even in this period the increased levels of pollution in the stream were no longer viewed as acceptable, the paper mills decided to continue the ENPOM business under the name Industriewater Eerbeek B.V.
From that moment onwards, the water treatment installation developed rapidly. In 1963 a system of sewer pipelines was installed that ran kilometres from the paper mills to IWE, thereby entirely bypassing the stream as far as the IWE plant. This was followed in 1976 by an 8 km-long pipeline from IWE, direct to the river Ijssel. As a result, no more wastewater was discharged into the stream. The Pollution of Surface Waters Act (1970) led to the introduction of biological treatment at the plant in 1980. At this time, biological water treatment was still a pioneering technique.
The production volume at the three still operating paper mills rose steadily, imposing ever growing demands on the treatment installation. With the introduction of the then very innovative anaerobic pre-purification technique, in 1985, these challenges were overcome. From that time onwards, in essence, the costs of treating wastewater no longer rose, and investments could be earned back due to lower energy costs and the generation of energy from biogas. Over the past few years, IWE has succeeded in further improving its performance, by introducing new innovative techniques. As a result, contaminated water is now 99.8% cleaned, the process generates a net energy surplus, and the raw materials cycle is now practically closed.