Climate warning
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Gemeente Venlo

Climate warning

Claessen Tankcleaning, Venlo Netherlands, allows liters of carcinogenic substances to flow into the Maas river.

Claessen Tankcleaning, Venlo Netherlands, allows liters of carcinogenic substances to flow into the Maas river.
Source: NRC newspaper
Hazardous substances Cleaning company Claessen Tankcleaning in Venlo has been making serious mistakes for years. It exposes employees to carcinogenic fumes and allows harmful substances to flow into the Meuse. The police, the Public Prosecution Service, the Labor Inspectorate and the environmental service are aware of this, but hardly intervene.
This is the news in short:
-Dozens of liters of carcinogenic benzene flow untreated into the Maas every week, originating from Claessen Tankcleaning in Venlo.
-Employees are at risk. At least ten serious industrial accidents have occurred in the past five years.
-The environmental service, Labor Inspectorate, environmental police and the Public Prosecution Service have been aware of the problems for more than three years, but hardly intervened.
-The owner does not respond to questions and finds NRC's investigation "makes no sense". The municipality of Venlo says it has believed in the good intentions of the company for too long.

Marcin Skiba examines the papers as the truck driver turns onto the cleaning lane: crude benzene, clean with water, is in the instructions. For Skiba, cleaner at Claessen Tankcleaning Venlo, it is a routine job. This is how it goes every working day, every month, twelve months a year, also on this spring day in 2020. But he knows: what I do is dangerous and forbidden. Benzene is a carcinogen. It is forbidden to clean tanks with benzene residues with water, certainly on a large scale – as is done at the tank cleaning company where he works. But his boss apparently doesn't care about that. The installation for cleaning tanks with benzene has been broken for years.

Skiba (now 38) dons his gas mask and turns on the tank, showing a video shot that day. The benzene sloshes across the floor at full force. The room fills with a pungent, diesel-like smell. He takes the water hose with hot water and starts spraying hurriedly. His boss always wants things to go faster. “Faster, faster, gas, gas, gas,” he often snaps. Steam rises from the tanker. Liters of dangerous benzene flow over the floor, then into the sewer and untreated to the Maas. Skiba sprays some more air freshener into the tank and the driver leaves.

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At Claessen Tankcleaning Venlo, the company where Skiba worked between 2009 and November 2020, working conditions and environmental rules are being violated, several former employees tell NRC. The company works with large volumes of hazardous, toxic substances and flushes them down the sewer. Employees must work in toxic fumes with respirators they say are worn and broken. Ambulances had to turn out several times due to industrial accidents. In five years, about ten employees were seriously injured. The fire brigade had to be called into action repeatedly because of a fire or because of complaints about a strong, pungent smell of gas.

Director and owner Michel Claessen (34), who took over the company from his father, does not accept an invitation for an interview. “I don't think it makes any sense,” he says over the phone. "I don't understand why journalists care about this." Despite repeated insistence, Claessen does not respond to written questions and accuses NRC of "stalking".

The local environmental supervisor, environmental service RUD Limburg Noord, has been aware of the abuses for 3.5 years, according to documents that NRC viewed. But the inspectors only give the company warnings. There was never a fine, the company was not shut down. Meanwhile, dozens of liters of hazardous substances are flowing into the Maas every week and employees are at risk, according to interviews with seven former employees and hundreds of documents, videos and photos viewed by NRC.

The abuses have been reported several times to the Labor Inspectorate, but as far as is known, they only issued a fine of 450 euros in 2021. Why have the authorities not intervened for three years?
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46 more agrees trigger social media ads

  • winnie nguru

    46 w

    Don't they guidelines to ensure they safely dispose off waste?

    • Elizabeth Gathigia

      46 w

      So irresponsible of this company, and I hope urgent action should be take put to an end to this, it's causing so much harm to the environment and risking the live of the employees

      • Munene Mugambi

        46 w

        Can't believe this goes on and it's illegal

        • Hilda Wangui

          46 w

          The company should look upon for proper methods of disposing their waste rather than directing it to water bodies

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