Meuse used to dump contaminated, Belgian Soil

Amsterdam, 9 October 2018 –Foreign companies have free reign to dump contaminated and heavily polluted soil, sludge and sediments in the Netherlands. The soil is used to fill old sand mining pits, which can be up to 30 meters deep. Waste supplierspay huge sums of money to get rid of their waste and the owners of the pits make millions. The soil is, among others, polluted with plastics that float to the surface. So while volunteers do their utmost to clean riverbanks, polluted soil is deliberately dumped in areas in close connection to our rivers.

A group of concerned citizens, organized in a local organisation called Burgercollectief Dreumelse Waard researched the proceedings considering a local lake, Over de Maas, one of the sand and gravel pits in Dreumel, a village in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Downstream of this particular lake, where a lot of polluted soil has been dumped the organisation frequently found a specific type of orange plastic. This plastic is often used on building sites in Belgium, but rarely in the Netherlands. This plastic was not found upstream of the landfill site, providing a strong argument that it originated from the soil imported from Belgium. And according to the report of the organisation, PVC-pipes, car batteries, asbestos, bitumen, aerosol spray cans and scrap wood were found as well. However, Herman van der Linde, director of Nederzand, the company responsible for the raising of the lake floor of Over de Maas, states that it cannot be proven that this plastic originated from his project.

For the Over de Maas project the use of a total of 10,000,000 metric tons of soil is planned, and over 3,000,000 metric tons have been already deposited. According to current Dutch Soil Quality Decree, 20% of the soil’s weight can be foreign material. So if the rest of the soil is uncontaminated, in this Over de Maas example a maximum of 2,000,000 metric tons of plastic is allowed. The Vonkerplas is another lake which depth is to be adjusted. And the role of Staatsbosbeheer is remarkable. Staatsbosbeheer, a Dutch nature preservation organization and the owner of the lake, states in their information campaign that the raising of the lake floor is about restoring natural values. And restoring natural values or improving water quality are two exceptions that would allow soil from other areas to be deposited. The calculations of the Burgercollectief Dreumelse Waard (in this informative presentation) show that Staatsbosbeheer could make 45 million Euros with the Vonkerplas project. It would appear that Staatsbosbeheer does not value nature as highly as it should, if a lot of money can be made. But a few weeks ago, confronted with “the lack of support of the local population“, Staatsbosbeheer, the province of Gelderland and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management put the Vonkerplas project on the back burner.

Another party shirking its responsibilities in these soil dumping affaires is the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT). The ILT issues the permits to import foreign contaminated soil that is used to fill the sand and gravel pits. For example, the permit allows the deposition of 150,000 metric tons contaminated soil in Over de Maas; this equals 150 shipments dumped between 2010-2017. The ILT grants these permits with the knowledge that the soil can’t sufficiently be inspected.

The lake Over de Maas is exploited by a large syndicate of sand mining companies that represent 70% of the market. The import and inspection of the soil is outsourced to a small company with a total of 10 employees and only two inspectors. The Burgercollectief Dreumelse Waard has calculated that these two inspectors have to check 2645 shipments.

Also read: Plastic Soup on land agricultural compost is polluted with plastic