3M built a plant in Zwijndrecht (located in Flanders, Belgium) in 1975 and produced PFAS from 1976 to 2002.
Belgian regional authorities (Flanders Government and Parliament) have now “officially” discovered that 3M dumped huge PFAS quantities in the environment for many years.
Authorities have been warned about this problem by NGOs for many years but nobody acted.
The PFAS concentrations in the soil are extremely high; around 500 microgram per kg soil.
Another potential problem is ground water contamination.
VITO known for their role in Bio-Aromatics show up in this affaire. VITO had been warned too but nothing happened. Very disappointing, especially when you know that ensuring healthy soil quality is one of their main jobs in Belgium.
The Environment Minister of the Flanders region, Zuhal Demir (NVA), asked the Flemish parliament to start an “inquiry” parliamentary commission.
It’s the first time a Flemish minister asks the parliament for a commission; usually it’s the parliament that imposes one.
The coalition partners (Open VLD and CD&V) of Zuhal Demir (NVA) are angry that she asked for a parliamentary commission without consulting them first.
Zuhal Demir is one of the most efficient Minister in Belgium. She’s from Kurdish origin and is a member of the Flemish Nationalist party NVA.
The parliamentary commission will have to ask the question why did the previous Environment Minister(s) didn’t act upon the problem?
CD&V has had the most Environment Ministers during that period.
Some claim that Demir threw a Molotov Cocktail into her own Government and that her action may have been politically motivated.
CD&V and NVA are on two extremes of the “ideological” cleavage:
Some CD&V (Christian Democrats) voters have accused NVA (Flemish Nationalists) to be willing to separate Belgium to create an independent Flanders.
Some NVA voters have accused CD&V (ex CVP) to have facilitated the oppression of Flemish people by the French speaking establishment.
I think Demir had no other options and history may be on her side: the parliamentary commission should have happened 20 years ago.
Why didn’t the CD&V act upon it?
Belgian and Flemish Mentality
CD&V are not the only guilty ones is this scandal. There’s a “Belgian” and “Flemish” cultural element too.
The Belgian motto is: Ignore the problem until it’s not possible to hide it anymore; until then slide it under the carpet and pretend nothing happened.
Flemish and Belgians do not like “waves” and are afraid to open the Pandora box.
There’s a popular belief that who opens the box will be accused by their peers to be the one who released hell upon them.
Belgians and Flemish would rather stay “quiet” on a sinking ship than face the “stress” of having to organise the abandonment of the ship.
Crime Against Humanity
It’s a crime against humanity committed by 3M.
3M knew for the last 40 years that PFAS are a hazard to human health.
They knew that PFAS were found in the blood of people and animals all over the world.
3M knew since 1992 that their employees were up to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer.
Even worse, many employees complained about health problems. A survey among the staff at the Zwijndrecht site in 2001 indicated high levels of heart disease.
Yet the company’s top did not intervene and continued production.