Chemical company 3M will pay a total of 571 million euros to tackle pollution from its plant in Zwijndrecht. I have entered into a treatment agreement with the Flemish government on this subject.
It is important for Flemish Environment Minister Saturn Demir (N-VA), who proposed the agreement on Wednesday afternoon, that the agreement is “open” and that the government will not compromise on any dispute. This means that it can later request more money from the US company if that proves necessary.
This would only be possible for costs related to pollution and health damage. After all, the agreement provides 3M confidence that the Flemish government cannot demand additional funds to cover the costs of, for example, preventive health checks or water maintenance in Scheldt.
3M has already committed €115 million to invest in environmental technology at the Zwijndrecht site, and has promised €5 million to support local farmers affected by pollution-related restrictions.
The company has now also promised to pay 250 million euros for urgent treatment, including 150 million euros already announced in March. The funds will be used, among other things, to repair the land in residential areas in the vicinity. “3M acknowledges its responsibility to repair and commitment to repair,” Demir said.
The Flemish government will receive a compensation of 100 million euros. It can use this money as it sees fit in various policy areas related to the PFAS issue surrounding the plant, for example in health checks.
Another 100 million euros will go to Lantis, Oosterweel’s project manager. PFOS contamination was detected during these infrastructure works. Demir explained that half will come in the form of cash compensation and 3M will also provide services such as a temporary storage facility at its site.
Finally, 3M will waive the right to receive 1.3 million euros in government subsidies.
The company promises transparency. “This has been discussed often in discussions with environmental organizations,” Demir said. Residents of Zwijndrecht will receive information that has been approved by the Flemish administration. In addition, public meetings are held at least every three months to discuss the progress of treatment.
According to Demir, the agreement puts an end to two of the company’s actions against the government. It adds that a number of production operations at the plant have closed, while 3M is dropping its opposition. Americans are also withdrawing an appeal against stricter layoff criteria.
Now Demir wants the bulldozer to “enter the ground.” Demir hopes that repair work will begin in the fall.
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