Chemours liable for damage caused by PFAS in Dordrecht and surrounds, court rules
The chemical factory Chemours in Dordrecht is liable for the damages suffered by the municipalities around it due to pollution with carcinogenic PFAS, the Rotterdam court ruled on Wednesday in a civil case. The ruling opens the path to compensation proceedings, NOS reports.
The municipalities of Dordrecht Papendrecht, Sliedrecht, and Molenlanden filed this lawsuit against Chemours and its predecessor, DuPont. The municipalities want to recover the costs of Chemours pollution, including soil and health surveys carried out with public money and financial damage due to the consequences of soil contamination.
The municipalities held the chemical company liable for any damage they have suffered and may still suffer due to the emissions of carcinogenic PFAS substances PFOA and GenX. “These substances do not belong in the environment, not in our water, not in our soil, not in our food.” They argued that Chemours acted unlawfully by knowingly withholding the environmental and health risks of PFOA and GenX from the authorities in their permit applications. They also accused the company of doing too little to prevent the consequences of emissions.
Chemours argued in its defense that it had a permit to emit the PFAS in question. It said it has worked hard in recent years to reduce emissions, cutting GenX emissions by 99 percent and aiming to reduce its other emissions by 80 percent by next year. The company argued that it invests in processes and techniques to reduce its impact on the environment.
But that is too little too late, according to the municipalities. In June, the television program Zembla revealed that DuPont knew about the risks posed by PFAS and that it was heavily polluting the area around it for decades. It appointed a PFAS coordinator as early as the 1990s, who warned that PFAS was leaking through broken and cracking pipes, that the pollution was nearly impossible to control, and could have serious liability consequences.
Zembla also revealed that Chemours tried to reach a settlement agreement with the municipalities for all current and future damages caused by PFOA and GenX, but the municipalities rejected the offer.
Chemours is also facing other legal proceedings against it. Early this month, lawyer Benedicte Ficq filed criminal charges against the executives of the factory on behalf of over 3,000 locals. They accuse the company of knowingly endangering their health and lives with its pollution. A seriously ill former employee has also sued Chemours on his own, holding the company liable for his poor health. And the province of Zuid-Holland has filed a report for the illegal discharge of PFAS variant TFA.
PFAS is a collective name for thousands of manmade chemicals used in the industry for their heat-resistant and moisture, grease, and dirt-repellant properties. They are often used in non-stick coating in cookware, water-repellant clothing, fire-fighting foam, and cosmetics. PFAS are very polluting as they hardly degrade. Several are also carcinogenic with long-term exposure.