3M produces a number of products that are important for everyday life at its site in Zwijndrecht.
We distinguish four product groups in production in Zwijndrecht:
Since 1971, with more than 300 employees, we have been part of the Zwijndrecht community and we maintain regular contact with the local government and neighboring companies. We continuously strive for a good relationship with our neighbours.
Our employees are committed every day to follow all the guidelines that are common on such a state-of-the-art technological site.
What you need to know about PFAS
PFAS stands for a large group of substances based on poly- and perfluoroalkyl. The group includes various categories and classes of stable, durable chemicals and materials with useful and often necessary properties: oil and water repellent, temperature resistant, chemical resistant, fire and electrical insulating.
With those characteristics, PFAS fulfill critical functions in the production of electronic equipment, such as mobile phones, tablets and semiconductors. PFAS technology is also used in aircraft and low-emission vehicles.
We are going to remediate
3M is carrying out the ongoing descriptive soil investigation under the supervision of OVAM and will carry out remediation measures spread over several zones. A first soil remediation project for zone 1A has already been declared complete and admissible by OVAM. This is the area between the E34 in the north, the Polderstraat in the east and the south and the Molenstraat in the west.
3M expects to receive the final decision on the soil remediation project for this zone at the end of October 2022. In the meantime, a more detailed planning is being worked on so that the remediation works can be start as soon as possible.
3M has already announced additional investments to proactively take remedial measures in Zwijndrecht to address the historical distribution of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). To this end, we have signed an agreement with the Flemish Region, the Flemish Community, OVAM and the VMM with an investment amount of 571 million euros. 3M will announce remediation periods and actions, and accelerate them where possible. The entire remediation will always be completed in collaboration with the competent authorities.
We are further reducing our discharges
We have already significantly reduced our PFAS discharges. We have agreed to interim discharge restrictions and are investing more than EUR 115 million to further limit discharges by installing and applying control technologies and operational changes that lead to reductions.
We share information
An important element is the provision of information. We have therefore voluntarily shared many detailed documents about our production processes, the quality and quantity of our emissions and wastewater discharges and the available treatment technologies. We have also taken steps when concerns were raised and ourselves suggested new ways to further limit discharges. We have assembled a team of engineers and scientists to collect additional information when requested and we will continue to do so.
Countries and companies that prioritize scientific research have a head start. That is why investments in R&D are the 'heartbeat of 3M'. Science and technology can help solve the world's challenges, be it healthcare, the environment or food safety. That investment with demand-driven industrial research focused on sustainability, safety and health brings us more than 3,000 patents every year and a steady stream of unique products. For example, in 2014 a new production line for solvent-free adhesives was started in Zwijndrecht, thanks to the knowledge and experience of the local researchers and engineers.
We also have a Western European validation lab for the biopharma industry in Zwijndrecht. This lab carries out validation tests of filtration processes for the production of new vaccines and antibiotics. We simulate the customer's production process on a lab scale and test whether the filter meets the customer's specific requirements.
The 3M Customer Technical Center (CTC) in Zwijndrecht is a modern training and expertise center for companies and organizations that want to innovate, co-create and train employees. They can follow no fewer than 50 different training courses on the site. Examples include personal safety and fall protection, bodywork repair and car wrapping, as well as training in joining, finishing, sanding and polishing materials.
Together with technical experts from 3M, companies in the CTC can also work on product and process innovation. Good cooperation with Belgian industry and knowledge institutions is essential for 3M. This way we can continue to innovate together to better serve our customers.
3M is committed to operating in compliance
3M in Zwijndrecht is committed to acting within the framework of granted permits, obtained in consultation with the competent authority. We are committed to our customers, our environment and the inhabitants of the region.
Every day we look for even more effective ways to minimize the impact of our processes.
We are in constant contact with the competent authorities such as the Public Flemish Waste Agency (OVAM), Flemish Environment Agency (VMM), and the government to answer all questions about the current and historical production activity at 3M Zwijndrecht. We do this to enable science-based dialogue and work together towards a future that responds to the needs and concerns of the local community and the Flemish Region as a whole.
We at 3M are committed to addressing the historical impact surrounding the 3M site in Zwijndrecht. In addition to remediating water and soil, there are many other initiatives to which 3M contributes. We absolutely understand the financial challenges that, for example, some of our neighbors farmers and organic farmers are facing due to, among other things, the no-regret measures that the Flemish government has put in place and we want to offer help and support. Citizens of Zwijndrecht, Beveren and Antwerp Left Bank also have numerous questions. Addressing these issues is a top priority for 3M. We appreciate the cooperation of PFAS coordinator Karl Vrancken in this.
Support for farmers
At the initiative of 3M and in collaboration with the agricultural organisations, we have developed a process to compensate farmers affected by these matters.
To this end, 3M entered into discussions with PFAS coordinator Karl Vrancken to compensate agricultural companies for the damage suffered as a result of the PFAS contamination. Karl Vrancken announced in a press release that farmers in the Zwijndrecht region can apply for an allowance.
The content of the compensation was agreed upon by the steering committee in which the various agricultural organisations, the Department of Agriculture & Fisheries, the contract holder and 3M are represented. These payments have already been completed.
Support for Blokkersdijk nature reserve
Our neighbors of Blokkersdijk Nature Reserve had informed us that they may be confronted with additional costs due to the decision of OVAM that reed may no longer be processed as compost, but must be disposed of in a specific way.
Given the good relations between 3M and Blokkersdijk and the importance of the nature reserve for the community of Zwijndrecht, 3M is in talks with Natuurpunt/Blokkersdijk to see how we can support them. For this, 3M does not wait for the result of the next phase (the ecotox part) of the Descriptive Soil Research that will start in 2022 before providing assistance to Blokkersdijk. We are currently working out an initiative in which 3M employees could help with the maintenance of Blokkersdijk.