Mannig suspects that the horses died due to the recycled soil contamination and is prosecuting the municipality

The recycled soil at Maxima Bridge in Alven aan den Rijn causes environmental pollution. He was also the cause of the death of two horses, riding school owner Melanie and her father, Niko Wonder. They are courting the city.

The dark, black sand lay in great heaps diagonally behind the stables of the Melanie Riding School. That piece of land, which she now owns, houses storage for recycled soil that was used around the Queen Máxima Bridge in Alven aan den Rijn.

Environmental pollution

It was only last year, after 7 years of construction, that Melanie and her father, Niko, discovered that black sand was polluting the soil and groundwater. This relates to the so-called thermally clean soils (TGG).

This is soil that is heated to high temperatures by specialized waste processors to break down existing contamination and can then be reused. Sustainable, that’s the idea.

Rijkswaterstaat high costs

But last year, EenVandaag and Trouw revealed That recycled soil causes environmental pollution in different places in the Netherlands. In Bunschoten, part of Westdijk was cleaned up for €34 million. The Vallei en Veluwe Water Board is trying to recover this amount from the contractor.

The Rijkswaterstaat also incurs significant costs. For example, I commissioned a study on a dam in Zeeland Perkpolder and the service investigated whether there was pollution around 5 major infrastructure projects. In total, Rijkswaterstaat has already lost €3.8m due to TGG’s problems.

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Black water

Harmful substances also seep into the soil and groundwater in Alven aan den Rijn. Antimony, selenium, fluoride, barium, and benzene are present in very high levels. Melanie and Nico were unaware of these substances. Shortly after the bridge was built, in 2016, two horses fell ill after drinking from a nearby moat.

“The water was dark brown, almost black,” says Melanie. “We called the water board, and they were taking water samples. But they only assessed it visually and didn’t tie it to the ground. The vet said it was no longer possible to prove that water was the cause.”

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dead horses

Whey is now hardly usable as whey. Tufts of grass grow and the earth is firm. “We tried working the soil with the farmer,” Niko says. “But there was no way.”

In 2020, years later, the entrance to the trench becomes blocked. Fresh water is no longer supplied by the Rhine. This coincides with the sudden death of two other horses and a dog. “The horses were healthy,” says Melanie. “That was a huge shock to us, it just came out of nowhere. One horse had just competed.”

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Puzzle pieces

Melanie and her father refuse to investigate the cause of death. At that time they had no suspicion of environmental pollution. The pieces of the puzzle only fall into place when, in early 2021, they read in the newspaper that thermally clean soil has been used around the Maxima Bridge, and that the municipality is conducting an environmental impact investigation.

This research confirms their suspicions: soil and water are polluted, although, according to the researchers from the Tau agency who participated, there are no unacceptable risks to humans, plants and animals. Their horse pastures also appear to be polluted. “In particular, the purchase contract states that there is no question of soil contamination,” says Nico. “So this will not happen.”

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The Van Remundt family went to court and demanded that the horses’ pasture be cleaned up and that all costs be reimbursed. A lawyer also filed an executive application on behalf of the family to force the municipality to act against itself. But the council recently rejected the request.

Alderman Relus Breeuwsma says he will follow the advice of his Environmental Service. Although it has been proven that TGG does not belong to horse pasture, but since a covering layer has been applied and there are no pressing risks, treatment is not necessary. He really wants to monitor pollution and the potential for increased filtration and the spread of harmful substances.

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More TWA than reported

It is clear from the documents that the Van Remundt family requested from the municipality that the municipality does not know exactly where to apply the TGG. It appears that the drawings that should show this were not provided by the contractor.

Emails show that 20,000 cubic meters more TGG was applied than reported by the contractor, even where this was not the intention.

after hard damage

According to soil expert Jeroen Oosterwegel of GeoFoxx, who works on behalf of Van Remundt, someone made good money on it. “There’s also a trade behind that. If you had to use building sand, I’d estimate it would be 3 to 4 tons more expensive.”

The municipality is still investigating whether the damage can be compensated by the contractor. Meanwhile, Van Raymondt suffered a heavy loss. “If you look at the damage to the image, the costs of the investigations, the lawyer and the compensation, it will soon amount to a million euros.”

View the report here

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