3M pays Flanders €100 million in damages for pollution

3M pays Flanders €100 million in damages for pollution
The 3M plant at Zwijndrecht is reportedly among the most polluted in the world. Photo: Belga

American company 3M has agreed to pay €100 million in damages to the Flemish regional government as part of an agreement on the clean-up at the 3M factory in Zwijndrecht in Antwerp province. The money will go towards the clean-up of contaminated soil in the area around the plant.

Last month it was revealed that the levels of cancer in an area of 3 km or 5 km around the 3M plant in Zwijndrecht were no higher than the norm in other areas of Flanders, according to the Cancer Register Foundation, which keeps track of incidences of cancer in the region.

The new results echo the conclusions of a 2021 study, also carried out in Zwijndrecht. “The link between the environment and health is complex and deserves additional research," said the Flemish Minister for Public Health, Hilde Crevits (CD&V).

However, the payment for the clean-up operation was already agreed upon between the company and environment minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) and came to a total of €571 million. The €100 million will be used by the Flemish government in a variety of ways in the field of environmental protection, to be administered by the Environment and Nature Fund.

“By forcing a large sum of compensation from 3M, on top of the remediation costs around Zwijndrecht that they have to bear anyway, we as a government can strengthen the approach to PFAS pollution throughout Flanders without the taxpayer noticing anything,” commented Demir.

The exact destination of the money will be discussed by the government in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Demir intends to discuss the approach to PFAS pollution when she meets her fellow EU ministers in Luxembourg in three weeks.

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