Antwerp and Flanders have been discussing options to tackle traffic jams around and in the city of Antwerp for the last 20 years.
It took 20 years to finally decide to go for the “Oosterweel Link” option to solve the traffic jams (construction and infrastructural works) .
Lantis (ex-BAM) is a publicly-owned company who is responsible for the construction works of the Oosterweel Link.
When Lantis started the excavations works, high concentrations of PFAS were found in the soil.
They traced the origin of the PFAS back to the 3M plant in Zwijndrecht.
The Secret Deal
When Lantis discovered high concentrations of PFAS in the soil, they knew it would turn into a scandal and this was not good for business as it may put the project on hold.
So they did what they usually do in Belgium … they decided to keep it quiet.
3M smelled an opportunity and made the secret deal of the century: We (3M) agree to play ball and keep it (PFAS pollution scandal) quiet; if you (Lantis) pay for the clean up and renounce your rights to take us to court afterwards.
Lantis signed this secret deal resulting in the Flemish Government paying 63 million € to clean up the PFAS pollution, while 3M just paying 75.000 €
The Flemish Minister responsible for Mobility at that time was Ben Weyts (N-VA) and his chief of staff was transferred to the BAM (predecessor of Lantis) to run the Oosterweel project.
The Unpublished Press Release
OVAM (Public Waste Agency of Flanders) discovered the scale of the PFAS problem and prepared a press statement to warn the public about it.
This was not good for Ben Weyts and Lantis.
Ben Weyts decided to organise a meeting in 2017 between his team, Lantis, OVAM and the Minister of the Environment (Joke Schauvliege, CD&V).
A little anecdote about Joke Schauvliege is that the first decision she took as Minister was to deforest a wood to build a parking.
The conclusion of this meeting was that OVAM wasn’t allowed to communicate on PFAS and 3M.
When OVAM CEO (Henny De Baets) was recently asked to talk in front of the camera and answer the question “why she didn’t publish the press statement”, she sent her lawyer and he said that it was due to a ministerial decision.
According to Peter Vermeulen (3M Director ) PFAS is not dangerous for your health; there’s no proven link between PFAS and health problems.
Note of the redaction – They do have a sense of humor at 3M. Even Joe Biden recognised recently that PFAS was linked to cancer.
I think they should give a strong signal to avoid similar cases in the future. The Flemish Parliament should make an example.
3M – Why would they sign a secret deal if they thought PFAS was innocent? They should be made responsible and they should pay for cleaning up the mess.
Lantis – It will take another 20 years to get the project back in motion if they stop the Oosterweel constructions (this is Belgium!). However, the imbecile(s) or corruptable(s) who signed the secret deal should be fired. All the contracts and agreements signed by Lantis in the context of the Oosterweel Link should be reviewed by third parties. All the people working at Lantis with connections to Ben Weyts and Joke Schauvliege should be removed from office.
OVAM CEO didn’t mean harm, but it was her responsibility to warn the public and publish the press statement. She should be fired to give a strong signal. It should be clear that Environmental Agencies should not sacrify public health for private interest whatever their Ministers ask them to do.
Joke Schauvliege (Ex ENVI Minister) – OVAM fell under her responsibility so it was probably her who asked OVAM to remain quiet. She should face her responsibilities for this.
Ben Weyts – Lantis fell under his responsibility so he probably knew about the the secret deal. He should face his responsibilities. If the imbecile or corruptable was his ex-chief of staff, he should face heavier responsibilities.
In any case, Ben Weyts and Joke Schauvliege should have to repay their ministerial salaries received in 2017. Half of it should be given to the blogger activist (Thomas Goorden @tgoorden) who was the whistleblower in this scandal.
Bart de Wever – NVA has been known to be an “incorruptible” party. Well, it looks as if Ben Weyts (NVA) brought some nuances to this. Bart de Wever is known to be the best politician in Belgium and apparently he’s incorruptible. So, the million dollar question is: Will De Wever keep a hard “incorruptible” line and remove Ben Weyts from office or will he make an exception for his buddy?