3M must compensate family for PFAS pollution, Antwerp court rules

A small claims court in Antwerp ruled on Monday that chemical company 3M must pay provisional damages of 2,000 euros to a family from Zwijndrecht. Abnormally high amounts of PFAS were found in the blood of the parents and their two children.

The family lives about a kilometre from the 3M plant in Zwijndrecht. The soils around the site were found to be contaminated with PFAS, which can cause various health problems. PFAS was found in their blood, up to over 100 times the permissible amount, and in their vegetable garden.

The family went to a justice of the peace to seek damages from the company. It did not have to prove that 3M was at fault, but several conditions had to be met, including neighbourliness and excessive nuisance attributable to the neighbour.

"Big industry can no longer do whatever it wants"

The company had first argued that the justice of the peace lacked jurisdiction to rule, but this was rejected. 3M had additionally challenged all conditions except neighbourliness. However, the justice of the peace ruled on Monday that all conditions for neighbourhood liability were met.

3M was ordered to pay provisional damages of 2,000 euros to the family, as the contamination prevents them from fully using their property as it was intended. The exact amount of damages will be determined later. The ruling may set an important precedent for other local residents who want to go to court, and can still be appealed.

"Big industry can no longer do whatever it wants, even if it has a licence," said lawyer Geert Lenssens on Tuesday. "It must take responsibility."


#FlandersNewsService | The 3M plant in Zwijndrecht © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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