Pollution scandal: 3M ordered to stop production after failing to prove no harm to environment

Pollution scandal: 3M ordered to stop production after failing to prove no harm to environment
Flemish climate minister Zuhal Demir. Credit: Belga

Chemical company 3M in Antwerp has been ordered by the Flemish Department of Environment to stop certain production processes due to concerns over pollution.

The Environmental Inspectorate had given 3M two days on Tuesday to prove that the factory's emissions do not further burden the environment, and the company failed to do so, according to Nieuwsblad.

The inspectorate ordered 3M to at least temporarily stop the production processes that emit PFAS, “to be sure that exposure risks for local residents do not increase further.”

Translation: Of course, it is not my intention to shut down a company, but to get information that all of you, we, and the people of Zwijndrecht are waiting for. I think I can say on behalf of everyone that our patience is exhausted.

3M disagrees with the decision and plans to appeal it.

In the meantime, they said they “will continue to work with the competent authorities to answer all questions,” 3M said in a press release on Friday.

“While the discussions continue, we are temporarily suspending certain activities. In the meantime, within our global organisation, we are looking at how we can limit the consequences for our customers and resume normal activities in Zwijndrecht [Note: the Antwerp neighbourhood where the factory is located] as quickly as possible.”

3M claims that it strictly complies with environmental legislation and general regulations, and that all information about their activities is available in the environmental permit, but evidence of pollution from the factory has been widespread, along with evidence that it has been covered up.

Flemish Minister for the Environment Zuhal Demir has said that “our patience is exhausted” when it comes to waiting for 3M to provide proof that its activities do not pollute.

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