My health story about the waste incinerator of Sint-Niklaas in Belgium.


The Belgian MIWA-waste incinerator has a capacity of 55,500 ton a year.  The health report describes the assessments in the environment of the waste incinerator.  These assessments can be supply with an investigation of exposure of pollutants or with an investigation of biomarkers for exposure to ambient air pollution. However, till now, our government (with the green party as member of the government) refuge to do these investigations. We had to make the health report fully by ourselves. We had to spend our own time and own money to make the study of assessments.


We want tell you the shortened story about the waste incinerator of Sint-Niklaas in Belgium.


1. History

Since about 25 years , there is in the city of Sint-Niklaas (Belgium) (40,000 habitants) a waste incinerator owned by the government (a corporation between 5 towns). This waste incinerator with a 55,500-ton year capacity was built amidst streets where people live. It is less than 2 kilometres from the town centre. There is no heavy industry in the neighbourhood. From 1977 till 1988 the waste incinerator operated with a limited filter installation (only with a badly maintenanced electro filter). During 20 years the ashes were stored and transported in open containers.  Until now the waste incinerator is working without nitrogen filter.


2. Our health complaints as the neighbours


End of the year 1997 we heard about health complaints by neighbours of incinerators. We worry about it in consequence of the handicap that happened with our little child. He is now 6 years old and is an achondroplast (a dwarf) in consequence of a mutation. Scientists call it an accidental mutation.


But there was also the year 1979. In this year I fall a victim to a spontaneously abortion. The foetus was 3 months old and they could not find a reason for this spontaneously abortion.


One year later in 1980 we expected against a child. When we where in the hospital at the moment of the confinement the nurse found out that we expected a twin. A few ours later the twin come an earth, but ... they died before they come to earth. After examination of the two deceased boys, the doctors could not find a reason why they died. It was against an accident.


In 1981 there was a daughter, thank goodness she was total healthy. But the next year I fall against victim to a spontaneously abortion. The foetus was again three months old and again they could not find a reason for this spontaneously abortion.


By myself, they're where also many other health complaints during the time I lived near the waste incinerator.


At this moment my daughter of 21 years old, has her periods just two or three times a year, caused by a hormone disruption. 


We detected recently that my son of 17 years old has a neurotic development.  He has among other things a fall-out of his audile memory. 


All these health complaints could be caused by the toxic substances of the waste incinerator.

3. The government

We tried to tell about our problems to the government. On the 25 November 1997, we had a talk about the healthy complaints with the mayor of our city. He said that there could not be any problems in the neighbourhood of the waste incinerator caused by this incinerator. He said also to us that he knows the term "culpability principle" from the handicap sector. Parents with handicapped children are always looking for a scapegoat. In this case, he said, it is the waste incinerator. Until now the mayor, do not want to speak with us. The mayor himself is member of the board of directors of the waste incinerator. The man who is political responsible for the environment of the city is also the chairman of the board of directors of the waste incinerator until 12.31.2000. 

In December 1997, we wrote letters to the Flemish minister of healthy, to the Belgium minister of healthy and to the Flemish minister of environment. We never got any response. Now, since two year the green party has the minister of health and the minister of environment but nothing changed.  They have built an incinerator of 150,000 tons/year cap. And they gived permet to build another one with a capacity of 466,000 tons/year.  Our green party wants also build 3 incinerators in Ireland. 


4. Our health research.

In the month of January 1998, we started a health research. The results where unbelievable, also for us. (look report).

In may 1998 we wrote again letters to those ministers, this time with the results of our health research.

The Flemish minister of healthy said that she was not qualified to this problem and that all facts belong to the power of the Flemish minister of environment. The Belgium minister of healthy answered that he is only qualified for toxics in food. The Flemish minister of environment did never give an answer.

In Belgium, there is a communication gap between the habitants and the government. Ministers refuse to co-ordinate many problems. In this case the government is at the same time owner of the waste incinerator and responsible for the health from their habitants. Commercial interests give the forehand instead of interests for a healthy society.


Fred De Baere


Belgian Platform Environment and Health

Drielindenstraat 24

B 9100 Nieuwkerken Waas


tel. en fax : 00-32-3 766 12 02