A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 October 11, 1990
In September 1990, Paul Connett and Roger Bailey, of Videoactive Productions, visited the Rijnmond municipal waste incinerator and interviewed two farmers who, since July 1989, are forbidden to sell the milk and meat produced from their farms. Since July 1989, the Dutch government has bought all the milk and meat produced on 16 farms downwind of this incinerator because government tests revealed high dioxin and furan levels in the milk samples tested in the area. The following excerpts are taken from Videoactives rough footage of the interviews. Videoactive Productions expects to have the video on the Rijnmond municipal waste incinerator available by the beginning of 1991. (Note: The Rijnmond, Mouth of the Rhine, municipal waste incinerator was built in 1972, has an ESP for pollution control and is approx. 10 miles from the heart of Rotterdam - See Waste Not #s 61, 67, 76, 120).
Interviewer Paul Connett: Can you remember when you asked somebody to test your milk?
Farmer Simon Van Der Kuuij, a retired cheese maker, runs a dairy farm with his son downwind of the Rijnmond incinerator. Simon has owned his farm since 1959: ...May 1988. I took a little bit of the milk in the evening of May 31, 1988 (for dioxin tests)...
Connett: Why do you remember the 31st of May?
Farmer: I will never forget it. I think we get big problems. Because of the people in Utrecht, they said you must know what you are doing...
Connett: When they said be careful, did they mean if you find dioxin in the milk it could ruin the farmers here, it could make trouble for the farmers.
Farmer: It was not clear.
Connett: You felt responsible?
Farmer: Sure. Because I have heard so many stories about people in town here who had asthma, and also
some of the neighbors here they had problems with the kids.
Connett: What kind of problems with the kids?
Farmer: Different (problems).
Connett: Breathing problems?
Farmer: Yes, some of them.
Farmers wife: Sometimes problems, and they (parents) dont know what the problem is. You cant say exactly. It was always I dont know - I dont know exactly.
Farmer: When they moved to other parts of Holland the problems were over.
Farmers wife: Yes, the problems were gone.
Connett: ...When they left the area it got better?
Farmer: Yes. And also the cows. Some farmers moved to other parts of Holland. Here in this area the milk of the cows was always too low. When they were one or two years in other parts, the production went up...
Farmers wife: There are two problems for the government. Closing the incinerator and saying to the farmers you cant sell the milk. They had to make a choice between the two problems....a Ministry of Agriculture (official) said (he) like(s) to have agriculture here. (He said) agriculture has to stay here (with the) chemical plants. And we say when there are chemical plants you then cant stay any longer if theres farming here. But he (agriculture minister) dont like to say that.
Farmer: We can never make cheese here, because the people they dont trust it...there is no future in the long run for farmers here.
Connett: How do you feel knowing that the milk is going to a hazardous waste incinerator?
Farmer: That is terrible...
Farmers wife: But there is also the responsibility for the cows. What are you doing with your cows when you are staying here with your cows in this dirty part of Holland? Farmer: ...Most of the farmers are afraid to talk...
Connett: What happens to the milk?
Farmer: They pay (for) the milk, normal price, and (our) income from making cheese, they pay for that, and also for the cows. If the cows go to the (market) it is always to a special place, they keep (meat) apart from other meat. But...the future for the young farmers is gone here. The price of the land, and the buildings, (are) going down. Then they (government officials) said you will have to go to the incinerator to ask for compensation...
Connett: How do you feel about the incinerator?
Farmer: ...Started in 1973. From the first day they started they had problems there. A big history. Some people at the government said Its not good, we must not do it...its politics.
Connett: What would your advice be to a farmer in the U.S.?
Farmer: You must not put incinerators by dairy farms...the soil, the grass, the cows, organs, because the cows collect heavy metals in the liver. Here, we had a big number of cows with cadmium and dioxin, more high than normal. The government said dont worry...farmers (were) here for 300-400 years...a big mistake of the government to put incinerators here.
Connett: Has there been any discussion of the (dioxin/furan) levels in human beings in the farms here that have consumed the milk? What about mothers breast milk?
Farmer: We have asked for that (and were told) Oh no, (there is) no problem.
Connett: How do you know there is no problem?
Farmers wife: They only say it, they dont test it. They only say theres no problem...the government is not doing anything for you. No, you have to do it on your own.
Connett: How do you feel about this?
Farmer Art Dumond, whose family has run the dairy farm since 1928: When you hear in the begin(ing) you think for your own, you drink much milk, all the years you drink you think Whats happening with me, how bad is it for me. Later you think what are we going to do with our cows, much years you work with the cows, in the beginning they say maybe all the cows go to the abattoir, but thats no problem, all are old cows, so they pay us (for) the milk and for the cows who go to market.