Eggs from people's own gardens have become one of the symbols of the PFOS pollution.

PFOS pollution scandal continues to make waves in Flanders as leaked e-mails pop up

Various things have gone wrong in the case of the PFOS pollution in and around Zwijndrecht, a documentary by the VRT's current affairs flagship Pano revealed earlier. The question is whether the Flemish government(s) at that time made serious mistakes, and what the consequences are. 

A parliamentary investigation is being held into the matter at present. The whole case came to light when the real extent of the PFOS pollution in the area of the 3M factory in Zwijndrecht became apparent. This has a health impact on local residents, who have been asked not to eat vegetables grown in their own garden or eat free-range eggs from their chickens. 

The pollution happened in the past, but the damage has been done. PFOS is a so-called 'forever chemical' that remains in nature (and in our bodies) almost forever. 

Questions remain

A VRT documentary by Pano revealed that on the one hand Flanders may lack a strong approach when it comes to tackling environmental offences by big companies. Courts are short of expertise to handle this kind of crimes. But the question was also raised why Flemish ministers did not communicate more clearly about the PFOS problem in Zwijndrecht, of which they had been informed earlier.

Leaked e-mails

Leaked e-mails show that some people in leading positions asked employees to take things easy where the investigation was concerned, while others were not in a hurry to communicate. 

In 2017 the Flemish waste-processing company OVAM is asked by the administration of the former Flemish Environment Minister Joke Schauvliege not to be a frontrunner in the communication and to refrain from doing further research on the possible impact on local residents. Joke Schauvliege has denied any wrongdoing though.

In 2018 the company behind the Oosterweel construction project, Lantis, asked the cabinet of the then Mobility Minister Ben Weyts to come out in the open with the PFOS pollution threat. Local residents had major concerns when they saw men in special white suits at work on the nearby construction grounds. However, nothing happened. In a reaction, Ben Weyts says that he is confident that his employees have acted correctly. 

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