The Dutch public prosecution department is launching a criminal investigation into the DuPont/Chemours chemicals plant near Dordrecht which will focus on pollution in the period up to 2012.
The decision follows the mass claim filed by lawyer Bénédicte Ficq in September on behalf of some 2,400 people. Ficq’s claim is against all managers of the factory since 1962 for knowingly releasing harmful chemicals into the environment for years.
This, plus an investigation by television current affairs show Zembla, have triggered the criminal probe, the public prosecution department said.
“The investigation focuses on potentially harmful effects of PFOA emissions on humans and the environment in the vicinity of the plant site in the period up to 2012,” the department said in a statement. “As part of that investigation, it will also consider whether there is any criminal liability on the part of the company’s executives.”
At a later stage, the investigators will look into expanding the period to after 2012, and cover GenX, another form of PFAS. Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl 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.
The investigation will take at least a year, officials said.
Another criminal investigation is already ongoing against DuPont/Chemours which focuses on the possible exposure of employees to excessive concentrations of PFOA up to 2012. That investigation is in its final stages, the department said.
A number of incidents involving possible breaches of environmental regulations by the company are also being investigated.
Earlier this year, Dordrecht, where Chemours is located, and nearby Sliedrecht, Papendrech and Molenlanden started proceedings against Chemours as well, for damage done to the environment by the discharge of the carcinogenic PFAS.
The local authorities also accuse Chemours and its predecessor DuPont, of having known about the dangers to health and environment posed by the substance but claim that it withheld this information in order to get permission to dump its waste.