Europe’s biggest lie: when the polluter must pay


For over 100 years, Tata Steel has been polluting the Dutch IJmond region and especially Wijk aan Zee. Carcinogenics and heavy metals are knowingly dumped into the Ocean, the air and all the surroundings of the industry. Innocent people are paying the price of this massive pollution with their health. Surfrider Europe and Surfrider Netherlands have both filed a complaint as part of a big legal action against the steel giant to put a stop to these polluting activities. Help us to hold Tata Steel accountable. 

“Nobody is taking care of us”

Friday, March 25th, was the premiere of the latest WaterBear documentary “Europe’s Biggest Lie” focusing on the case of heavy industrial pollution in Wijk aan Zee. Close to 400 people attended to the event in Amsterdam, shedding the light on the impacts of Tata Steel’s activities. After years of only short-term thinking with a government turning a blind eye on the destructive consequences of these activities, now is the time to put an end to this lie

“Tata Steel has been releasing mercury into the sewage system and is failing to curb emissions of dangerous substances”

9,000 employees and 160,000 residents are exposed daily to dangerous toxins released into surface water, air and soil. Heavy metals and other chemicals pollutants have been found in the area, with many people suffering from various symptoms such respiratory distress, nausea, or irritation. The Wijk aan Zee community is exposed to harmful pollutants and the risks of developing cancer are 50% higher than in other parts of the country. The 100-year-old coal powered steel factory is damaging the health, the lives, and the future of the people and of children in the Netherlands. Graphite dust containing heavy metals, benzene and oil is falling like rain all over the houses and schoolyards.

“Half of the lead in the whole Netherlands in the air is coming from this one factory” - Bart Vuijk, Investigate Journalist

So what are we waiting for to stop Tata Steel ?

“An example of something that still needs to be fixed in Europe”

This steel factory is not the only one getting away with polluting the environment. Which is why the impact on human health, lives and environment must be the priority, not the economic benefits. And Tata will be held responsible for the damages they have caused.

When driven by economic interests, governments fail their main duty that is protecting their citizens. And Tata Steel is an example of what still needs to be fixed in Europe.

“We want to set a precedent that the heavily polluting industry in the Netherlands and Europe no longer gets away with impunity for their damaging actions to the environment” - Simon Witt Surfrider Foundation Europe

Surfrider Netherlands joined a collective of local organizations that filed a complaint against Tata Steel, to stop these criminal activities. Surfers, bathers, and locals that use the coast for their enjoyment in Wijk aan Zee can no longer do so without risking their health. In fact, living everyday near this pollution site is a damage to their health.

Now, they need our help to support the already ongoing investigation, get Tata into court and fight against the excessive permits Tata Steel has been given to pollute.

Join the fight

Our coastal defender volunteers from Surfrider Netherlands joined others NGO’s, citizens and civil society organizations. With local campaigns like our legal action against Tata Steel, it is the precedent that we want to set, to reach all polluting industry and the communities that suffer from them. We want this case to be a deterrent:

“If you break the law, we will find you and you will be held accountable for your crime”- Bénédicte Ficq, Criminal Lawyer

Harmful practices against the Ocean, its biodiversity and their population should not be protected by the government turning a blind eye. We need clean air, clean water and a safe environment to live in and thrive, big industries should not take that away from us only to grow profits.

As a citizen, you can be part of the Surfrider Coastal Defender movement and report damaging activities you might witness in coastal areas.

Together, let’s protect our Ocean and our health.

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