Chemical company 3M has requested the contact details of the farmers in the vicinity of the Zwijndrecht site, where the soil is seriously contaminated with PFOS from the factory. That is what Minister of Agriculture Hilde Crevits (CD&V) said in the Flemish Parliament after a few questions.
According to the minister, several farmers near the factory have reported loss of turnover due to the pollution. Farmers who are active in the short chain, which means that they often sell directly to the consumer, are particularly affected.
The company has now taken action itself. “A few days ago I received a request from 3M to get the lists and the names of the farmers in the area, so that they can be contacted in function of an emergency fund set up within the company,” replied Minister Crevits after questions from Stefaan. Sintobin (Vlaams Belang), Joris Nachtergaele (N-VA), Emmily Talpe (Open VLD) and Tinne Rombouts (CD&V).
However, the government is not allowed to transfer that list, for reasons of privacy. Crevits has therefore offered to contact the farmers himself and to suggest that they contact the company.
“I have no substantive knowledge of the offer that 3M intends to make or would have made to farmers who are experiencing damage,” said the minister. ‘It is the absolute responsibility of 3M and the sector to make very good agreements about that compensation.’
The government itself cannot come up with a compensation. ‘I cannot just set up a damage fund within the Flemish government’, said Crevits. ‘The state aid rules are pretty clear about that. It is, of course, impossible to circumvent them. I do not want that either.’
Farmers who are confronted with liquidity problems can make use of a temporary Flemish guarantee. This is for companies that suffer at least a fifteen percent drop in turnover. “There are some who experience such declines in turnover,” said the minister.