Drug lab chemicals dumping site will take years to clean up

Officials visit the dump site earlier this year. Photo: Sem van der Waal ANP

Cleaning up huge volumes of chemicals dumped near a massive illegal drugs lab in woods in Noord Brabant is going to take another two years, experts have said.

The location was found in 2021 on the Buitenlust estate shortly after police discovered a drugs lab nearby. The site had for years been used to dump harmful chemicals, such as acetone, ethanol and benzene used in the production of synthetic drugs.

The damage to the environment is “huge”, forester Erik de Jonge told local broadcaster Omroep Brabant.  “You could see a grey substance with white foam on top. I recognised the smell because it is not the first time I have found this type of waste. I knew the contamination would go deep,” De Jonge said.

Since then, he said, he has had three phone calls over time to tell him the contamination is even deeper than expected. “This means more trees will have to be cut down enable the removal of the soil,” he told the broadcaster. The soil around the dumping site will have to be removed to a depth of eight metres and the groundwater has also been contaminated.

The provincial authorities have agreed to shoulder the cost for the clean-up but have said the bill should go to the suspects in the case.

However, according to local police drugs crime coordinator Freek Pecht that may not be possible. In general, is is often difficult to link suspects to chemical dump sites because “it is hard to prove who dumped it and when,” he said.

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