The sugar giant Tereos, owner of the Béghin-Say brand, was sentenced on Thursday January 12 in Lille to a fine of 500,000 euros and more than 9 million in damages for having polluted the Scheldt in 2020, causing the death several million fish.
The Walloon region will notably receive 8.86 million euros under the “ecological harm”decided the criminal court, which recognizes the ” neglect “ of the group in the maintenance of a dyke, which had given way and caused the pollution of the river.
“We are obviously satisfied with the severity of the sanction”reacted Corinne Lepage, lawyer for the Wallonia region, who claimed 17 million euros. “I am, for my part, satisfied to see that the ecological damage is once again recognized and compensated”added the former Minister of the Environment.
“The decision may appear harsh indeed a priori”but “on the amount” allocated to civil parties, “it is much lower than the requests that have been made”recalled the lawyer of Tereos, Alexandre Moustardier.
The fine is in accordance with the requisitions of the prosecution during the hearing in mid-November. But the obligation to “to repair the damage” caused, also claimed, was not retained, a prefectural decree of August 2021 already prescribing to Tereos ecological repair measures for the Scheldt.
50% decrease in cash
“There was negligence, recklessness, non-compliance with the regulations”who have “contributed to aggravate the risk of accident”noted the deputy prosecutor Florian Pappo, for whom “it will take years” to repair the damage.
On the night of April 9 to 10, 2020, the rupture of a dike at the Tereos plant in Escaudoeuvres (North), which retained beet washing water, led to the spillage of 100,000 cubic meters of blackish liquid, essentially organic matter, especially in the Scheldt, which crosses France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Millions of fish were dead, with the investigation concluding the “50% reduction in the number of species and 90% reduction in numbers”. It is “the most important pollution that the Scheldt has known for more than a century”had insurgent Corinne Lepage at the time of the hearing.
Me Moustardier, had, for his part, mentioned “a chain of responsibilities or multiple responsibilities” public and private actors. According to him, the Antea Group design office, responsible for controlling the basins, had not underlined the urgency of an intervention. The lawyer had also put forward a “lack of administrative supervision”before the accident, of the facilities involved.