Archive picture shows the then Mobility Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) in 2018, kicking off the Oosterweel works.

Is PFOS scandal becoming an embarrassment for the political world?

New data show that the Flemish government already knew about the possible extent of the PFOS pollution near Antwerp back in 2017. The team changed after the 2019 elections, but various politicians are still part of today's administration. 

Almost all members of the Flemish government, Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever and some of his aldermen already received ample information about the PFOS pollution in the Antwerp area four years ago, in 2017. The Flemish government was led by Geert Bourgeois (Flemish nationalist) at that moment. 

They received this information in connection with the upcoming infrastructure works for the Oosterweel mobility project to make the Antwerp Orbital Road complete. Lantis, the company in charge of the works, had several earth samples taken and analysed and warned that safe levels of the chemical substance PFOS were exceeded in several places. 

At the same time, politicians were asked to look into the possible pollution in Zwijndrecht, it appears from an e-mail that the VRT news desk got hold of. However, nothing happened with the information. Zwijndrecht is the place where 3M is located, the factory responsible for the pollution. 

The question remains why the political world didn't take immediate action

Four years later, the case is making the headlines as local residents were asked to refrain from eating vegetables from their garden or eggs from their chickens - the latter applies to a 5 km-perimeter from the factory. The whole case is becoming an embarrassment for the Flemish political world: why didn't they intervene earlier? 

Today, our political news desk found few politicians prepared to react. Only the spokesman for Bart De Wever made a short statement, saying it is not up to Mr De Wever to react, since the problem is mainly situated in Zwijndrecht (in East Flanders) and not in Antwerp. 

A parliamentary commission, the first in the Flemish government in many years, will investigate the case and try to find out what went wrong and who is politically responsible. 

What is PFOS? 

PFOS is a water, dirt and grease-repellent toxic chemical. It is so strong that it does not degrade at all (or hardly). When it is released in nature or when it finds its way into our body, it remains there for a very long time. PFOS can cause serious health problems if certain levels are exceeded. It can disrupt our hormone balance, trigger elevated cholesterol levels or even cause cancer. 

Top stories