Akzo Nobel in pollution clean-up battle
16 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government is taking chemical concern Akzo Nobel to court to recoup the costs of an environmental clean-up at hundreds of locations in and around the eastern city of Hengelo.
The government holds the company responsible for the spread of the very poisonous insecticide HCH (Hexachlorocyclohexane) during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, public news service NOS reported on Monday.
The State has already spent EUR 27 million on the clean-up operation and 290 suspect locations have been identified. Pollution is especially bad in Hengelo, Enschede, Oldenzaal, Borne and Delden.
The court battle is the latest chapter in a 17-year dispute and comes after the Almelo Court and the Arnhem Appeals Court ruled that Akzo Nobel is guilty of soil pollution.
The Supreme Court has also ruled against Akzo because its “inattentive treatment” resulted in the wide spread of the insecticide across the Hengelo region. But the court also said that it must be still proven that Akzo acted recklessly consciously.
Akzo bought in 1954 a polluted business terrain from Stork, which had produced HCH on site for several years. About 5,500 ton of HCH was being stored at the site at the time of the purchase and Akzo sold 1,500 tons to Philips in 1956 for it to be processed. The rest was transported in 22,500 drums to Germany in 1975.
The company had therefore considered the matter closed. The Environment Ministry said Akzo claimed it did not know and could not have known — and did not need to know — that its terrain was polluted or if the situation posed a risk to the region.
Soil pollution outside of the business terrain was not discovered until 1977. Various other places across the Twente region were later confirmed to be polluted with HCH. HCH pollution is recognisable by a penetrating musty odour released by excavation work.
The pollution was caused by the dumping of polluted ground in the surrounding region. Production emissions from Stork were also a contributing factor, but residents also allege that winds had free rein on the mountain of HCH waste for more than 20 years.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news