3M appeals against PFOS clean-up order in Flanders
Chemical company 3M has filed an appeal to overturn a decree outlining its clean-up obligations in Flanders. Environmental organisations believe the move shows 3M wants to "shirk all responsibility" in remediating the PFOS contamination caused by its plant.
In 2021, a 3M plant in the Flemish municipality of Zwijndrecht was found to have caused widespread contamination with "forever chemical" PFOS, a quasi-undegradable substance found in a wide range of products.
After lengthy negotiations, the Flemish government and 3M reached a clean-up agreement in July 2022. The company committed to pay 571 million euros to remediate the pollution caused by its plant.
This spring, the Flemish government issued a decree outlining a comprehensive approach to PFOS contamination. It specifies how, when and who should clean up gardens, farmland, natural areas and waterways near the 3M plant.
3M appealed against the decree with the Council of State in June. Whether this means the company no longer intends to bear the total cost of PFAS remediation is not clear.
"Above all, it shows that the company still lacks a sense of responsibility"
While 3M has said it still intends to fulfil its clean-up obligations, environmental group Bond Beter Leefmilieu says the move shows the company wants to "shirk all responsibility". BBL will join the appeals case as a civil party, the organisation announced on Friday.
"In its appeal, 3M questions its role in the PFAS contamination, disputes the interpretation of the soil decree, attempts to find fault with the separation of powers, and questions the relevance of the 5 km perimeter - the boundary to which 3M's responsibility now extends," BBL said.
Flemish Environment minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA, Flemish nationalists) also regrets the move, she told De Standaard on Friday. "To my great regret, the company continues to use every opportunity to challenge government decisions while at the same time saying it will implement the remediation agreement without delay," she said. "This shows schizophrenia, but above all, it shows that the company still lacks a sense of responsibility."
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