Defense depots a danger to employees, local residents for years: report

Crates of ammunition in a bunker at Defense ammunition complex Veenhuizen
Crates of ammunition in a bunker at Defense ammunition complex VeenhuizenPhoto: Defensie

Ministry of Defense employees and people living around Defense ammunition sites were in unnecessary danger for years because the safety of ammunition depots was not in order, the Volkskrant reports based on internal documents from Defense and the Inspectorate of Social Affairs and Employment.

The newspaper got hold of these documents through the Freedom of Information Act.

The Inspectorate found 89 problems in 13 Defense ammunition depots. These included ammunition being stored improperly and warning signs being absent in some places. Some depots had an increased risk of ammunition exploding, for example due to a lightning strike.

Singe January 1st, 2015, the Inspectorate gave Defense eight fines, including a 4,500 euros fine for the lack of a proper lightning protection system at the Staphorst depot. There were also fines for an absent warning signal at the Reek defense terrain in Schaik. In an emergency situation, employees had to use 'party items' to sound the alarm, and the Inspectorate concluded that the air pressure horns were not recognizable as a warning signal. 

The documents show that the problems at the ammunition storage sites have been a source of concern for years, according to the Volkskrant. Last year work in ammunition warehouses in Veenhuizen, Staphorst and Ruinen was temporarily halted because of a direct threat to military and other personnel. 

The Inspectorate told the newspaper that the lightning protection systems in the Staphorst and Ruinen depots are now in order. 

In a written statement, Defense told the Volkskrant that the vast majority of problems have since been resolved. According to the Ministry, safety has has top priority and inspections are carried out in order to reveal problems that need attention.