Greenpeace, among others, withdrew from the PFAS negotiations with the government. But why are Natuurpunt and Bond Beter Leefmilieu, among others, staying?
‘It would be crazy to close the door just now that we can finally give direction to supported solutions. We’ve been monitoring this bumpy file for twenty years.’ That says Jef Van de Wiele of the local Natuurpunt department that manages the Blokkersdijk nature reserve, which is polluted with PFAS, next to the 3M factory in Zwijndrecht. ‘Can the approach be improved, with stricter soil standards? Of course. We want the nuisance of nature to stop. But we currently believe in the government’s approach. We will meet every few days for the next fortnight. Does this mean that we will abandon our critical attitude and go with the flow? No.’
The pressure on the government is very high, according to Natuurpunt, partly due to lawsuits brought by Greenpeace and activist Thomas Goorden, among others. ‘That feather is certainly worth putting on their hat. Also because of their expertise and decisiveness it is a pity that they have left the negotiating table.’
No pressure from cabinet
‘We must stay. It’s about the well-being of our residents, the necessary environmental care and care for our patrimony’, is also the opinion of Zwijndrechts Alderman for the Environment Steven Vervaet (Green), who hopes that talks will continue to be possible, despite the fact that some parties have resigned.
Bond Beter Leefmilieu – which also went to court – also regrets the departure of Greenpeace, among others. ‘We want to continue to guarantee that the agreement leads to a broadly supported remediation, which repairs the damage to the environment and people in the short and long term’, says general manager Danny Jacobs.
Jacobs’ organization will receive just under a million euros in Flemish subsidies this year. Is there a risk that they will be more cautious towards the government? ‘Theoretically that is possible, and in the past we have already been experienced as too critical, but here we do not feel any pressure from the cabinet. We have already started legal proceedings before, but afterwards we sat down again. We want problems to be solved.’
There was also protest against a confidentiality clause that would last forever. ‘We don’t experience it that way,’ says Van de Wiele. ‘It makes sense that you don’t go to the press during the talks. But afterwards it must be possible to talk, in the first place by Flanders, which has to defend an agreement in and around Zwijndrecht.’
“When we talk, we want a safe space. Not that you are not allowed to say anything afterwards, but that you are discreet about individual positions of persons or organizations seems normal to me,’ says Jacobs.