Germany must boost controls after ‘big PCB scandal’ – minister

28 July 2010 17:41  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Germany needs to tighten controls after “one of the country’s biggest environmental scandals” in recent years involving a firm that allegedly did not properly treat materials and goods contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), a state minister said on Wednesday.

“This PCB scandal in Dortmund [North Rhine-Westphalia state] must result in a comprehensive overhaul of government supervision,” state labour minister Guntram Schneider said.

“We need to ensure that this does not happen again, and to do that we need thorough and tough controls,” Schneider said.

Schneider called for a review that would assess German government administrative and organisational structures and uncover weak links in the supervisory chain.

He speaking after visiting the Dortmund site of Envio, a firm focussed on the decontamination and treatment of PCB materials.

A regional government authority, responding to information from an Envio worker, in May inspected the site. Following the inspection, the authority, Bezirksregierung Arnsberg, shut down parts of the facilities and ordered a clean-up.

The authority later published findings of highly elevated PCB levels in workers’ blood samples, indicating that workers had been exposed to elevated PCB levels for years, it said.

Envio, for its part, said that speculation in the press that materials treated by Envio and declared free from PCB were in fact contaminated “had no basis at all”.

Rather, investigations had shown that “there is no systematic PCB-contamination at Envio, whatsoever“, the company said.

As for the blood samples, Envio said the results “had deeply shocked and surprised” the company as regular medical examinations of workers had never shown elevated PCB levels in their blood.

The company was rejecting allegations of “criminal motivations” and said it would defend itself against “prejudgement” that harmed its interests and reputation.

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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