Tata Steel pollution in Dutch village

Wijk aan Zee near Tata Steel

Over a century ago, famous Dutch playwright Herman Heijermans lived in Wijk aan Zee village near the North Sea coast. He wrote his most famous play The Good Hope (in Dutch, Op Hoop Van Zegen) about the Wijk aan Zee fishing industry. Capitalism in the fishing industry then meant that ship owners sent decrepit ships still out to sea. If the old ship would get back safely, then the owners would make a profit from selling the fish. If there would be a shipwreck with all fishermen drowning, like happened in the play, then the owners would make a profit from insurance money.

Today, Wijk aan Zee is not a fishing village any more. But there is still trouble with capitalism. Not ship owners’ capitalism: steel making capitalism.

Dutch daily De Volkskrant reported on 12 January 2019 on the pollution of Wijk aan Zee by the Tata Steel works close to it.


But every time they [the Wijk aan Zee people] go to the “competent authority”, the province of North Holland, the residents get the idea that it is on the side of Tata. Because why does the province allow Tata to exceed European standards? And how can it be that the province for almost two years did not realize that residual products were processed illegally, resulting in graphite rain? …

Whoever looks at the most recent figures by the Dutch Emission Authority (NEa) sees that the emissions of Tata Steel between 2014 and 2017 have only increased. After coal-fired power stations on the Maasvlakte and in the Eemshaven comes Tata Steel with 6.8 million tonnes of CO2 which it exhausted in 2017 as the most air polluting company in the Netherlands. …

Now it is ‘the black rain’, also called ‘graphite rain’, which caused great unrest in Wijk aan Zee over the past six months. Cars, houses, bicycles, streets and sandboxes were covered with shiny black stuff, blowing over from the industrial neighbour, with a gentle south-east wind. And the residents open the windows and doors for a moment, because of the persistent summer heat, then the stuff would be all over the homes.

In December 2016, there was the first stream of complaints from Wijk aan Zee about “black glittering particles”. It was blamed on Tata Steel complex based Harsco, a stock exchange listed US multinational corporation. This company processes “the slag” of Tata Steel, a residual product of steel, and thereby releases dark dust, due to “graphite explosions”. It has to do with a new process with the ROZA slag, which was experimented for the first time in 2014: no longer the slag was cooled, but it was glowing hot. …

From the laboratory investigation initiated by the village council itself of ‘sweeping samples’, a disturbing result came: eg, heavy toxic metals were found such as vanadium, zinc, chromium and lead. The two general practitioners of Wijk aan Zee sent a letter to the Beverwijk municipal council, whose authority includes the village, expressing their concerns about the many complaints about eyes and respiration that they encountered in their practice. They wrote that there is ‘a large population’ of cancer patients among 2,200 residents and that there are relatively more children with ‘behavioral and concentration problems’. Further health research is necessary, state the GPs, as well as ‘cancer registration.’ …

“It is very unlikely that there is no connection between the health problems and the emissions of Tata Steel“, says Doctor Luc Verkouteren, living in Wijk aan Zee, working as a general practitioner in IJmuiden. “But whatever happens: the company is always reactive and never pro-active to protect the population. It only happens when they get strong criticism, and then they do the minimum, just like the government that has to supervise. We fight here against two Goliaths: Tata Steel and the government that allows it to happen.”

Tata Steel refuses to pay fines for their pollution: here.


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