The snow in the vicinity of the ESD facility in Farmsum was littered with black flecks on Thursday afternoon after another so-called “blazer”, a large cloud of carbon residue, occurred at the chemical park.
Translation by Traci White
Dagblad van het Noorden reports that the snow along the roadways near the facility was visibly blacker following the blazer. Soot also landed in the nearby Delfzijl harbour, and clean-up efforts were underway in Thursday. Residents have been advised to keep children away from the polluted snow.
— Chris Bakker (@cwbbakker) January 24, 2019
On Thursday, emergency services were mapping out the size of the impact field, including the use of a police helicopter to get an aerial view of the area.
ESD produces synthetic silicon carbide, which is an abrasive used in products such as sand paper and is created by mixing quartz sand and petrol coke in an electric resistance furnace. Sulphur dioxide can form if there are sulphur impurities in the petrol coke, which can result in the blazers: clouds of soot that can be dozens of meters tall.
Farmsum, which has a population of around 2,100, has been dealing with the emissions for quite a while: there were around 30 of them in 2018, and in December, the province of Groningen called on the chemical plant to prevent them from happening.
RTV Noord reports that the police filed an official report for the incident, which company director Richard Middel says is a first. “We have been working hard to reduce the number of blazers, and those efforts are having an effect”, he says. “But every incident is one too many.” Middel says that it is difficult to monitor the conditions inside the furnaces – the extreme heat makes it impossible to put up cameras and thermometers – which means it is a big challenge to try and prevent the blazers from happening.
An investigation is currently looking into whether or not the silicon carbine fibres emitted by the blazers are carcinogenic, but the Dutch public health department stated last year that the current quantities believed to be released in the clouds only pose a very limited threat to public health.