Dealing with the problem in the Eppsteiner Straße

“An accusation has been made, unlike anything the town’s administration has ever been accused of before” was how Dr. Eggert Wintert (SPD) commented on the claims by the BUND (the German branch of “Friends of the Earth”) that the removal of toxic waste from a piece of ground in the Eppsteiner Straße had caused health problems for one family who had run a shop there.

He quoted from the dossier, commenting on the fact that setting free toxic gases can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

But he also made clear that to make such claims, BUND must be able to prove them and take responsibility for the consequences of making them, concluding that the way the dossier had been distributed by e-mail and social media that it had been designed to cause a scandal.

“It is difficult to argue against pictures”, he said, referring to the photos in the dossier of the children with skin problems.

The motion to look into the claims had originally been put forward by the parliamentary group of the OBG, with Georg Braun arguing for the motion on the grounds of the response to the dossier on the internet, the reports on local television and the claims of people being ill and even dying.

He gave a resumé of the problem and the history of the land since 1949.  Apparently even when the chemicals were in use there were complaints, but the town was powerless to do anything about them with the factory owner citing military use.  The factory closed in 1968 and the town purchased the land in 1976.

But, although the chemicals are now causing problems, he did point out that they were commonplace in many workshops at the time for cleaning purposes, but even then they should now have been allowed to enter the ground.

Referring to the dossier, he warned against taking the issue to court, pointing out that the citizens of the town had a right to find out as soon as possible what the situation is.   “It’s not about placing blame on someone, because there were lots of people involved in the decisions since 2002.  It is about restoring trust”, he commented.

“The motion is absolutely correct”, replied Dr. Winter, and commented that the matter must be cleared up fast and within the next two weeks if possible.

But although he was insistent that the matter be looked into in a public meeting of the environmental sub-committee of the town council, he was not happy that the authors of the dossier should receive the right to speak.  As a compromise, he suggested going through the dossier with the councillors and those involved at the beginning of the meeting, and putting specific questions to the authors afterwards. 

Jens Uhlig (CDU) criticised the dossier for looking scientific, but not actually taking a scientific approach because it only made claims but did not state facts.  He said that it was hard to understand how such claims took so long to reach the town’s politicians.

He would have preferred for the council to create a separate sub-committee to look into the claims, but took note of the fact that the other parties wanted the environmental sub-committee to take on the role, suggesting that part of the meeting may not be open to the public if it the residents make this a condition for doctors to be able to talk about their medical records.

Speaking for the Green party, Christina Herr said that she had been speechless when she heard about the family shown in the dossier, saying that whilst she would not say a word against the family itself, it was up to the BUND to provide evidence and take part in a facts-based discussion.

She also added that the citizens of the town should also have a chance to ask questions when the sub-committee met, and criticised the way the information about the matter had been handled in the past.  “We need a much better information policy”, she said, continuing “it does not matter if the decisions are right – if the citizens don’t know about them then that is negligent”.

In the vote that followed on a slightly modified motion, the council was unanimously in favour of letting the environmental sub-committee look into the matter at a special meeting.

That meeting is today: 18th Feburary, 2014 at 4.30pm in the town hall.


About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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