U.S. chemical company Chemours in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, is liable for environmental damage in the Netherlands caused by PFAS chemicals between 1984 and at least 1998. This was the Rotterdam District Court ruling on Wednesday 27 Sept. in an interim judgement in the civil case brought against the company by the municipalities of Dordrecht Papendrecht, Sliedrecht, and Molenlanden.
The court found that, while Chemours complied with its permit before July 1984, the company’s emissions of the PFAS variant PFOA between 1984 and 1998 constituted an unlawful act. Aware of the dangers, DuPont withheld important information about the potentially hazardous emissions, thus failing to adequately inform the authorities granting the permit, the judgement states.The court will decide at a later date whether Chemours is also liable for environmental damage in the region after 1998. The court could not yet determine whether the emissions occurring between 1998 and 2012 were also illegal.
However, the court held that emissions of another substance, GenX, were not unlawful as the towns could not provide sufficient evidence of the danger presented by the relatively low emission levels since 2012.
The fact that the court has ruled in favour of the municipalities on important points opens the door for damage proceedings. The municipalities are seeking to recover the costs of the clean-up from Chemours.
The present ruling is unconnected to the other class action cases pending before the courts. Last month, lawyer Bénédicte Ficq opened a mass claim against all managers of the Chemours plant since 1962 for their alleged knowledge of the fact that they were releasing harmful chemicals into the environment for years. Ficq represents at least 2,700 complainants who support the accusation of “deliberate and illegal” pollution of groundwater, air and soil, specifically by releasing the carcinogens PFOA and GenX.
Chemours responded, saying that it wanted to study the judgement and could therefore not comment on it at this time. The company said it will act independently of the legal procedures: "We hear the residents' concerns around our location in Dordrecht and they affect us. Today Chemours would like to express its intention to discuss with both municipalities and other stakeholders how concrete actions can be taken as quickly as possible.”