The Chemours chemical plant in Dordrecht can be held liable for damage caused by PFAS pollution in the region, judges in Rotterdam said on Wednesday.
The ruling is an intermediate decision in a civil case brought by several local authorities and is unconnected to other class action cases pending before the courts.
The court ruled that Telfon factory Chemours and its predecessor DuPont had kept important information about potentially damaging emissions secret when it applied for permits to operate. The ruling opens the door to the local authorities – Dordrecht, Papendrecht, Sliedrecht and Molenland – to force the company to pay for the clean-up operation.
The court ruled that emissions of PFAS variant PFOA between 1984 and 1998 were illegal and that the company knew of the dangers but failed to inform the local authorities.
However, emissions of another substance, GenX, was not illegal because the councils were not able to provide sufficient evidence of the danger presented by the relatively low emission since 2012, the court said.
Chemours could be held liable for the clean-up operation for that, if more of the chemical was released than thought as the legal proceedings progress.
The ruling is interim, and a final ruling is not likely before the end of the year, the court said. The case has been ongoing since 2018.
Last month, lawyer Bénédicte Ficq opened a mass claim against all managers of Teflon factory Chemours since 1962 for allegedly knowingly releasing harmful chemicals into the environment for years.
Ficq is representing at least 2,700 complainants who support the accusation of “deliberate and illegal” pollution of groundwater, air and soil, specifically through releasing the carcinogens PFOA and GenX.
Last month a popular outdoor swimming spot near Dordrecht was closed to the public because the water is polluted with the cancer-causing chemicals.
New research by public health organisation RIVM showed the concentration of PFAS in the water could be dangerous to children.
Current affairs show Zembla reported at the end of June that the water in ditches and swimming spots as much as 15 kilometres from the plant was polluted with PFAS.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) do not occur in the environment naturally but are found in various products, including non-stick coatings and food packaging materials. PFAS can end up in the air, water and soil.
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