PHILIPSBURG–A team from Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment RIVM will carry out a two-week assessment of the potential health risks for the community in relation to dump fires starting January 21. Government has requested the institute’s assistance with the assessment.
RIVM will submit a report on its finding and risk assessment to the Ministry of Environment and Infrastructure and will publish such on its website. This is currently scheduled for May.
RIVM’s Environmental Incident Service has specialised equipment for taking measurements and samples. RIVM intends to use these to advise whether substances released from the fires may be harmful to community health in the long term.
The investigation is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK.
RIVM will install equipment at the edge of the dump for air measurements and samples in relation to the continuously-smouldering subsurface fires.
If during this period any outbreaks of fire occur, additional measuring sites will be set up. The exact locations of these sites will depend on factors such as the wind direction during the fire. In such case, RIVM will take various types of samples. In addition to swipe samples of settled dust, special canisters will be used to obtain air samples. Airborne particulate matter samples will be measured, and where appropriate, also grass and/or vegetation will be sampled.
The team always wears protective clothing when taking these types of samples, purely as a precaution. Any material collected will be stored under appropriate conditions.
The samples will be transported to the Netherlands in refrigerated containers. There, the samples will be analysed by various specialized laboratories at RIKILT research institute in Wageningen, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and RIVM. These analyses will involve testing the samples for specific toxic substances that can be harmful to people’s health in the long term. These include Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, dioxins, and heavy metals. Based on the results of these analyses, RIVM will then draw up a risk assessment.