The municipality of Wetteren in East Flanders has advised residents not to eat eggs laid in the vicinity of the major train accident that took place there in 2013.
The accident involved a goods train in the Brussels-Ghent line, which was derailed near Schellebelle station. Several tank wagons carrying tonnes of the toxic chemical spilled then exploded and caught fire.
Extinguishing the fire used up a great deal of water and foam, used in chemical fires. And the foam contained fluorine, which the town now concludes might have led to high levels of the hazardous chemical PFOS in the surrounding soil.
The idea is speculation for the time being, and may only be sparked by the current coverage of PFOS pollution around the 3M manufacturing plant in Zwijndrecht near Antwerp, 45km away from Wetteren.
The municipality refers to the warning as a ‘no regrets’ measure, meaning it will do no harm to follow the instructions even if they turn out to be ungrounded. The advice covers not only eggs – PFOS accumulates in the fats in the yolks of eggs – but also home-grown fruit and vegetables for children and pregnant women.
Apart from the site of the train wreck, five other sites are included in the instructions given to residents. They include the Triconorma textiles factory, itself the site of a serious fire, the Houben bakery, which burned down in 2005, and the fire brigade’s training ground.
The instruction includes not only eggs and home-grown produce, but also advises against drinking groundwater and consuming small livestock, presumably including chickens and rabbits.
In the meantime, the Flemish waste management agency Ovam will carry out tests on the soil around the sites mentioned in the notice, at which point the municipality intends to adapt its advice as necessary.