The Flemish Government and 3M Belgium have reached an agreement to assist the people of Flanders
MMM Company (3M)
The Flemish Government and 3M Belgium today announced intentions for 3M Belgium to invest a total of over €571 million in the People of Flanders and carry out the previously agreed-upon corrective PFAS initiatives. The Flemish Government and 3M Belgium's longstanding conflicts are amicably resolved by this agreement.
"For the Flemish government, the health of our citizens and the protection of the environment comes first,"
says Flemish Minister of Environment Zuhal Demir.
"We expect that every entrepreneur and company takes their responsibility to act upon that. This Agreement is the result of an intense process during months in which 3M Belgium took action and financial responsibility towards our community. It is no secret that Flanders was counting on that as a clear signal towards the Flemish People and as a sign of respect. As a result of this Agreement, we will be able to get things done in the best interest of the People of Zwijndrecht, our local farmers and our prosperity and wellbeing in general. Not only in direct proximity of the plant, but also within the city community of Zwijndrecht and the construction site of the Oosterweel project, without ever letting the health of our citizens be a stake during negotiations. Flanders has the solid ambition of being a region where entrepreneurship goes hand in hand with care and love for the community and our environment."
"This agreement is a major step forward for the People of Flanders, as well as for our operations in Zwijndrecht and our ability to serve our customers. It also reflects 3M's ongoing stewardship journey as a responsible manufacturer and our willingness to engage with communities where we live and work to chart a positive course for the future,"
said John Banovetz, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Environmental Responsibility, 3M Company.
"We greatly appreciate the Ministry's collaboration in reaching this agreement, which builds on the commitments we have previously made and will fully uphold to carry out PFAS-related remediation and provide other support to the Flanders region. We have already taken significant actions to reduce PFAS discharges and emissions. These actions have enabled us to restart operations at the site. Through this agreement, we will address priorities identified by the government to provide for the citizens of Zwijndrecht, build the foundation for future certainty in 3M Belgium's operations, and address future potential liabilities."
3M Belgium's total commitment of €571 million incorporates previous and new commitments.
Addressing Legacy Manufacturing
As noted, under the terms negotiated by the Flemish Government and 3M Belgium, 3M Belgium will commit €250 million for priority remedial actions identified by the government for the benefit of Zwijndrecht's residents, including:
Remediation of contaminated soil in residential areas (gardens) in proximity to 3M Belgium's Zwijndrecht facility and the functional restoration of the gardens,
Reduction of flow of contaminated groundwater into the Palingbeek,
Prevention of future wind dispersion of potentially PFAS-containing soil or dust through a comprehensive dust control plan, and
Remediation of agricultural and recreational lands in proximity to the facility.
Paying Additional Costs Associated with PFAS Releases
The agreement calls for 3M Belgium to pay €100 million to the Flemish Government to be used in the government's sole discretion in connection with any PFAS released from the 3M Belgium facility. These funds may be used to benefit governmental entities beyond those that are parties to the agreement.
Helping Facilitate the Oosterweel Project
3M Belgium will provide €50 million in financial support and up to €50 million in support services to assist Lantis and facilitate the Oosterweel Project.
Additional actions to the extent required
The 3M commitments are based on truthful estimates of experts of the OVAM. In addition, under the agreement 3M Belgium agreed to support additional actions to the extent required under the Flemish Soil Decree, if necessary.
Enhancing Information Sharing and Transparency
3M Belgium will be required to take additional actions to transparently share information with the public about its operations and how the company is fully upholding its responsibilities under the agreement. These include:
Enhancing and upgrading its publicly accessible websites to help people learn more about its operations in Zwijndrecht and around the globe, the science of PFAS and more, all in consultation with the Flemish Government. 3M Belgium will provide updates on ongoing Descriptive Soil Investigations, Remedial Action Plans and other reports related to management of PFAS from legacy manufacturing.
Hosting regular public meetings in the municipality of Zwijndrecht to provide citizens of the region updates on remedial actions and answer their questions on a broad range of issues. These will be held at least quarterly for the first year and provide a helpful opportunity for individual citizens to learn how 3M Belgium is fulfilling its commitments.
These information sharing requirements will continue for at least 10 years and may be extended upon agreement by the parties.
The agreement also contains certain provisions ending current litigation and provides certain releases of liability for 3M while recognizing that the Government retains its authority to act in the future to protect the citizenry.
3M expects to record a charge in the second quarter of 2022 associated with these actions and to reflect it as an adjustment in arriving at results, adjusted for special items.
Source: 3M news