German PCB scandal trial

This German video is called Dirk Neupert vergiftete aus Profitsucht seine Angestellten [Dirk Neupert poisoned his workers because of lust for profits.]

By a correspondent:

Trial opens in German environmental scandal

15 May 2012

On May 9, legal proceedings began at the Dortmund district court against four defendants, accused by the public prosecutor of involvement in the criminal activities of Envio Recycling Ltd.

The company, which had made huge profits by recycling PCB industrial capacitors (devices for storing electrical energy) in Dortmund’s Rhine dock area, was closed by the supervisory authority of the Arnsberg district administration in May 2010. This followed a local newspaper’s reports of gross violations of safety and environmental regulations. Employees had worked with their bare hands, dismantling capacitors containing highly toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The dust extracting equipment was inefficient, and the dismantling often took place inside factory buildings.

The production of cancer-causing PCBs was banned in Germany in 1983 and also worldwide, following the Stockholm Convention of 2001. All PCBs and equipment containing PCBs were to be discarded by late 2010. Envio Recycling Ltd’s business practice was organised around the subsequent obligation of firms to safely dispose of the carcinogenic substance, and it was able to maximise profits by simply ignoring the new safety regulations. Under normal circumstances, the waste management of PCBs is extremely costly. The high-quality copper from the capacitors enabled Envio to draw substantial revenues on commodity exchange markets.

Those accused are Dr. Dirk Neupert, a director of the firm, a former operations manager, an off-site pollution control officer, and a former workshop foreman.

In view of the serious consequences of the affair this is a very selective choice of those who must have been involved. The extent of the violations would have been impossible without the cooperation of regulatory authorities—from the staff of the municipal environmental office to members of the district governing body.

The consequences for the Envio workers and their families have been catastrophic. Local press and television documented the lives of members of one particular family, whose father worked at Envio and brought the poison into his home via his work clothes. His wife was pregnant at the time, and their child was born with a cyst-covered kidney that soon failed and had to be removed. The poisonous substance was also found in the blood of the child’s five-year-old brother. The parents and children now live in a constant state of fear because no one knows what effects the toxin is going to have.