Limburg-based auto parts maker Tenneco has been given permission for years to dump far more PFOS than originally allowed. Experts have serious doubts about the resilience of local authorities. “You cannot be freed from the standards of such harmful substances.”
As early as 2012, Tenneco’s environmental statement referred to PFOS. The cloth that appeared in the foreground By 3M file from ZwijndrechtIt is associated with hormonal disruption, an increased risk of cancer and a weakened immune system.
As early as 2012, the government wants the company to limit the release of the toxic substance. The environmental permit imposes a discharge standard of 25 micrograms per liter, provided it is reduced to 0.1 micrograms per liter after two years.
Permit documents reported by Het Belang van Limburg and which can also be seen by De Tijd, show that the government considers PFOS to be the most dangerous Tenneco waste. The substance is “persistent, toxic and bioaccumulative.” Tenneco uses PFOS to combat chromium emission.
“This use was also permitted,” says Representative Inge Moores (CD&V), who is in charge of environmental permits. Since 2014, products containing PFOS are no longer added to bathrooms. It took a long time for them to disappear from the bathrooms. Today Tenneco uses an alternative product for PFOS.
Because Tenneco did not meet the strict standard of 0.1 µg/L, the company requested a review in 2018. The Limburg delegation agreed. “We have followed the positive advice of the administration,” says MP Ludwig Vandenhoven (Vorwett).
The company does not have to meet the 0.1 μg/L standard until October 2022. Today, 1.5 μg/L discharges are still allowed. Tenneco checks this discharge criterion. “An official report has been prepared and the company has been called to action,” says Brigitte Burgmanns, a spokeswoman for the Flemish Environmental Department. Since then, the environmental inspection body has found no violations of the special discharge standard, even during unannounced inspections. Not even with self-monitoring measurements.
However, the situation is surprising among specialists. Environmental lawyer Isabel Larmuso (LDR): “It really went wrong with the first statement from 2012 because no environmental impact report was done there. This should certainly be the case for materials with such a strict standard. You can’t move freely however .
The statement from 2018 is even more surprising. VMM complies with this. “The government explicitly mentions the danger of PFOS, but at the same time it is easy to think in tandem with Tineco,” says environmental lawyer Jan de Groot. In the application, Tenneco says removing chrome pools is expensive and offers no environmental benefit. VMM agrees with this reasoning. ‘It’s weird. The government is obligated to monitor the quality of the environment. Larmuseau: ‘You expect VMM to look at environmental quality and then make policy adjustments. Here the VMM does it itself.
Natuurpunt is deeply concerned about the possible link between Tenneco and the high concentrations of PFOS in Melsterbeek. A study by UAntwerp showed that fish contains up to 11 times more PFOS than normal. N-VA Member of Parliament Caroline Grossmanns of Herc de Stad has urged the Flemish Council of Environment Ministers Zohal Demmer (N-VA) to quickly look into the matter. She is also concerned: “Daily cows graze along the stream and farmers use the water to water fruit trees during drought.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly,” Vandenhof says. Pollution can also come from the landfill at Melverine, along the riverbed. The soil there is polluted.
Tenneco . response
Tenneco is committed to keeping its employees and local communities safe, while respecting the environment. The company has used PFOS in small amounts in the past in chrome plating. This was a common practice in the chrome plating industry.
“Although Tenneco stopped using PFOS seven years ago, very small traces of wastewater from the company’s chrome plating process still exist.”
“Tenneco is constantly investing in the latest wastewater treatment processes (based on activated carbon) to increase wastewater treatment efficiency and reduce the amount of discharge.”
For PFOS specifically, a four-step activated carbon adsorption process was introduced to absorb the residual traces of PFOS. Wastewater is discharged with approximately 1 µg of PFOS per liter (1 µg/L). This level of PFOS meets the strict limits set forth in the company’s discharge permit and is reported semi-annually in the environmental report on the site to government authorities, including the City of St. Troyden Environmental Department.
Tenneco’s goal is to reduce as much residual PFOS as possible. This is being investigated on an ongoing basis by the company in collaboration with environmental consultants.
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