Flemish authorities failed to act against PFOS pollution at 3M

An investigation conducted by VRT News has revealed that in recent years chemicals giant 3M based in Zwijndrecht (Antwerp) continued to discharge large quantities of the polluting substance PFOS into the River Schelde.  No action was taken despite the fact that several inspection services were aware of the pollution. 

Flemish environment minister Demir (nationalist) has acknowledged the mistake and is developing a plan to get inspection services to co-operate more fully.

3M no longer produces PFOS but the toxic substance still occurs in rain and groundwater at the plant.  3M is charged with pumping up this water and purifying it before it is discharged into the River Schelde. However, even after the purification process PFOS levels much higher than those permitted – up to 16 times the norm – were measured.

The pollution was mapped out in 2006 by the Flemish environment company and the Flemish refuse company but this information was never handed on to the environment inspection service that could have imposed sanctions.  The environment company and the environment inspection service only discussed the pollution in 2019.  Charge sheets were drawn up but subpoenaed by prosecutors.  3M was obliged to pay a fine of only 7,200 euros.

 

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