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  • Writer's pictureShanna Lutgert

Locals say salt drilling damages their houses and the environment

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

One of the drilling locations of Nobian in Winschoten © Shanna Lutgert

Locals of Winschoten don’t agree with the new salt drilling plans of chemical company Nobian, as it can damage their houses and the environment because of the sinking soil and vibrations of the ground.

Nobian and its predecessors have been drilling for salt in Heiligerlee and the Zuidwending region since 1954. The locals have suffered the consequences. The ground is shaking, and the soil is sinking, causing damage to houses. Non-profit organization MijnEnDijnBelang is standing up for the locals and inform those who don’t know what Nobian is doing.

“This is my pension,” Heleen de Waard (59), chairwoman of the organization, says, pointing at her house that has cracked walls.

The cracks in the walls of De Waard’s house is one of the reasons she has the banner ‘do not let us sink, get out’, written in Dutch in her garden. © Shanna Lutgert

She says that the cracks will be fixed soon, but it can be done all over again if Nobian continues to drill. “They deny everything about the ground sinking and the earthquakes. They say we’re too emotional.”

However, the organization is not against the project per se. “They just haven’t proven to us yet that it can be done safely.” De Waard explains that a couple of years ago, one of the pipes underground was leaking. It caused the soil to turn salty, killing plants and trees. Nobian caused a sinkhole in Haaksbergen, where the company is also drilling, De Waard says.

In January 2022, Nobian revealed plans for three salt caverns in the forest of the locals, the Babybos, in the Zuiderveen region. The residents are scared that it will do serious harm to the biodiversity and the animals that live there. Currently, those plans are off the table after locals expressed their worries. A protest of the organization on October 15, 2022 strengthened the feelings of the locals.

The future of the Babybos is under threat, according to De Waard. © Shanna Lutgert

Nobian is aware that the ground is sinking and that their project will have further environmental consequences. “We are measuring everything, every second, with the newest technology. The Netherlands is sinking every day,” environmental manager of Nobian, Ellen de Waard – unrelated to Heleen – explains.

“But the organization is currently our biggest opponent”, De Waard adds. Nobian tries to communicate everything with the locals over a cup of coffee. “We want to take away their stress and fear. No papers will get signed until we all agree.”

Nobian will host an information evening on September 26 about their project. By then, all parties involved hope to have a clear picture of what will happen with the salt drilling project.

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1 Comment

Saar Van Ommen
Saar Van Ommen
Sep 21, 2023

very interesting!

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