Mars Port in Antwerp: There is no special economic zone

Several weeks ago, various newspapers reported that 20 companies in the port of Antwerp were discharging sewage in Scheldt with non-degradable PFOS, the group to which PFOS also belongs. These include chemical companies such as BASF, Bayer and INEOS and petrochemical companies such as ExxonMobil and Total.

According to a study by the climate movement Climaxi, permitting and controlling in the port of Antwerp has been failing for some time. This is largely due to a lack of advice by the Department of Nature and Forestry and the Department of Welfare and Health. They should advise the government about the risks of certain permit applications in terms of willingness to engage with nature and the population. They can impose certain conditions that must protect nature and the health of the population.

The mission of these departments is defined in the Vlarem legislation and adopted in the legislation on environmental licenses. Since 2017, the environmental permits are for an indefinite period. The recommendations are mandatory if nature reserves or residential areas are located near some licensed facilities. The aim of these recommendations is to protect nature and the population, and is not unimportant when it comes to chemical companies, as in the case of the port of Antwerp, which often falls under the Seveso Directive on Hazardous Substances.

However, this appears to be an old issue that has not been investigated or denounced by anyone. This appears to be the case with both ecological and ecological permits. Nor is it a trivial matter: Borealis, BASF, Ineos, Total Polymers, ExxonMobil, etc. It is not about coincidences, but clearly about the systematic neglect of the obligation to give advice.

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For example, the Agency for Nature and Forests forgets to advise with a permit from ExxonMobil in 2019. ExxonMobil requests a permit under category 1 VLAREM for urban development activities. With this license, it is allowed to produce 375,000 tons of polyethylene (LDPE) annually. Plastic is made from this basic material. This site is located 75 meters from the Scheldt mudflat and salt marsh habitat line and 850 meters from the Blokersdijk Nature Reserve. Oddly enough, no advice was given about the impact of this production on the nearby nature reserve.

The Health and Welfare Agency is also neglected. NV Total Polymers will apply for an environmental permit in 2019 to produce tons of hazardous materials: 17 tons of flammable materials and 13 tons of corrosive materials and expand production’Liquids and solids that are hazardous to health in the long run”, the extension of “hazardous substances to the aquatic environment”. The Health and Welfare Agency does not provide advice.

These are just a few of the passes that we were able to show. The list of passes missing tips continues to grow as our investigation progresses. Moreover, Saturn Demir himself admits in a parliamentary question from Mieke Schauvliege that Vlaamse Milieu Maatschappij does not advise on 44 percent of VLAREM 1 permits on waste disposal in Flanders.

Climaxi also notes that if permits are violated, reminders are issued systematically, but convictions are few and far between. For example, the Catwinatis were reprimanded in 2019 for losing plastic litter at their sites. During a site visit on November 22, 2019 (to Katoennatie), grains were found in various places on the site, which furthermore got stuck in the unevenness of the old asphalt. Moreover, it is stated in the file that staff have been trained to clean up spilled granules on the spot spill kits, but this spill kits It turned out that he was not present. This was followed by a reminder, but without a fine or follow-up.

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Since January 2021, the Environmental Inspectorate for the Flemish Community has been writing additional measures in its Environmental Enforcement Plan to prevent the loss of plastic waste. This year, the government agency is taking extra care of the waste of plastic waste in companies across Flanders. To date, 16 examinations have been carried out, after which 8 check points have been prepared. Controls have been tightened, but polluting companies still easily escape recall.

Litter control fails, but controls on combustion plants also fail. For example, Eucore NV was visited by the Environmental Inspectorate in February 2021. An unauthorized combustion plant is in use, and no legally required air emissions measurements are made. This takes place less than one kilometer from the Bospolder Nature Reserve. The recall ran until May 1, but has yet to be followed up.

The Social Climate movement also says that the application of environmental legislation in the port of Antwerp is less available. Catherine van den Trost: “We also see that environmental impact assessments are avoided and licenses are constantly changing between subsidiaries and others (catwinati). Industrial parks close to each other get permits for each applicant. In this way, cumulative effects are not taken into account: I doubt whether anyone does He still has an overview of pollution and emissions. Not to mention that someone can come up with a plan for how to tackle these emissions and pollutions on the ground. This government is very lenient and compliant with the port’s environmental policy.”

That’s why Climaxi also participates in Antwerp’s March for a Healthy Harbor and City on Sunday 4 July at 11 am (Opera Plain). Climaxi is demanding a thorough investigation of all environmental permits at the port, advocates for the health of workers and local residents, and is calling for farmers in the vicinity of pollutants to get prompt compensation.

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Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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