Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday opened a criminal probe into “intentional and unlawful” pollution by steel giant Tata at a plant near Amsterdam, saying the public’s health could potentially be in danger.
The Netherlands Prosecutor’s Office launched the investigation to determine if the plant “introduced” dangerous substances into the ground, air or water in the province of North Holland, endangering public health.
The Public Ministry has already communicated the start of the investigation to Tata Steel and Harsco Metals Holland, a processor of residual products, a decision that comes after a complaint received on behalf of more than 800 individuals and several legal entities, local residents who have been complaining for years about pollution from the steel mill.
The complaint was filed in May last year and the Prosecutor’s Office has since studied the statements and requested and examined different documents related to the case before deciding to launch an investigation against both companies located in the municipality of Velsen in the province of North Holland.
The investigation will also focus on the role of executives within the two companies.
“The Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating whether they can be charged with intentionally and illicitly introducing or having harmful substances introduced into the soil, air or surface water that may pose a threat to public health,” the statement said.
There are several cases pending against these two companies. This Thursday, Harsco Metals Holland is due to appear in court in Amsterdam for possible violations of its permit rules. By the end of this year, Tata Steel will have to defend itself in court over four infringements, including the so-called “black snow” case believed to have been caused by coal dust in February last year. At the beginning of last December, the Dutch government announced the tightening of Tata Steel’s permits to emit harmful substances, which will lead to additional controls in this regard, say reports.
The central government and the province of North Holland want to accelerate the improvement of air quality in the port city of IJmuiden, so the company will receive stricter permits, and the Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) will carry out two investigations on the dust settled in the vicinity of the company within a year.
Most of the complaints from residents, exposed to high concentrations of toxic substances, focus on nuisance odours caused by the steel mill, so the plan is also to force the company to “continually” combat this stench while producing in a cleaner and more sustainable way.
The company itself said, it was willing to accelerate a series of plans to reduce emissions, and promised to emit 70% less in 2023, instead of 2025, compared to its 2019 emissions, while it will halve the emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) early next year.