When it comes to safety, we want 100% assurance | Belicons

When it comes to safety, we want 100% assurance

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Monday 21 March 2016

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When it comes to safety, we want 100% assurance

On March 16 I heard a discussion on Radio EenVandaag with Rob Govers, geophysicist at the University of Utrecht and Liesbeth van Tongeren, member of the Dutch Lower House, about the injection of waste water in an empty gas field in Twente. Liesbeth van Tongeren was worried that because of the injection of this waste water, chemicals would pollute the drinking water. Then Rob Govers said that there are no measurements that indicate that something went wrong.

But then Liesbeth van Tongeren said that the reason for this is that they are hardly measuring. And then Rob Govers had no response to that! This raises a lot of questions: Why doesn't he use better arguments? Is he even convinced himself that the injection of waste water into the ground is okay, if he cannot provide better arguments? Do these better arguments exist at all?


Peiling: De overheid hoort geen risico's te nemen als het gaat om onze gezondheid

Peiling: De overheid hoort geen risico's te nemen als het gaat om onze gezondheid

Lees de blog bij deze peiling https://www.belicons.nl/nl/blog/metingen

Poll: The government should take no risks concerning our health

Poll: The government should take no risks concerning our health

Read the blog that goes with this poll https://www.belicons.nl/en/blog/measurements

Body 2: 

Let's first try to understand the position of Rob Govers. Govers never claims that he is certain that the injection of waste water will be without any problems. More than that, he says a few times that it could go wrong. However, he still believes in a successful ending of this project. How is that possible?

Rob van Govers is geophysicist and knows all about the surface of the earth and how it reacts. He says that one can never fully predict what will happen if you take something out of the soil and when you put something in. There is just no guarantee in a situation like this. Based on his knowledge and based on what we can learn from the United States who are having a similar project, he has confidence.

In addition, he also trusts the NAM, the company that puts the injects the water in the soil. He says that they don't want any problems. So when it goes wrong anyway, then they will stop injecting water and then the problems will stop too. Because of all this, he doesn't need conclusive evidence to be optimistic in this matter. There is no guarantee anyway, but based on his knowledge there is no reason to think that something can go wrong. And when it does go wrong they can just stop injecting the water. This explained his relaxed attitude.

Different sides to the discussion

In order to fully understand this conversation it is important to distinguish all sides of this conversation.

  1. The scientific side

    The geophysicist looks at all the facts and concludes that there is nothing to worry about. The inhabitants see the same facts, among them the fact that there is no guarantee that it will be okay. But they are not reassured by the facts.

  2. The social side

    At one moment the geophysicist distinguishes between himself as scientist and as a civilian. As a scientist he looks at the facts but he does not take the perspective of the inhabitants into account. He has been invited as s scientist ans so he talks about the facts.

    However, the inhabitants see that, when it does go wrong, their drinking water will be contaminated. They can get sick. For them a small chance that things can go wrong is enough reason to worry.

  3. The confidence side

    The geophysicist trusts the NAM that they will quit injecting the waste water when problems occur. And he trusts his own knowledge. The inhabitants do not share this trust, neither in the NAM nor in the knowledge of the geophysicist.

  4. Economic side

    And then there is another side that is not mentioned during the conversation, but does play a part in all of this: the economic side. In economics, it is really important to keep balance. But the NAM is not trying to keep balance, they just want to earn as much money as they can with the oil and gas they extract from the soil in Schoonebeek. And for them that means getting rid of the waste water as cheap as possible.

    The waste water can also be cleaned and then there are no risks any more. However, that will cost more money for the NAM.

    And at this point it is also good to take a look at ourselves. For if they would spend more money to keep balance between what they earn and what is good for the inhabitants, then we may have to pay more for our energy. Is all of this important enough for us?

And now, trying to understand each other

Having a good discussion will not be easy

When you look at all these sides of the discussion it becomes clear in what way the line of reasoning of the geophysicist and the inhabitants differ. And this shows how complicated this discussion is. All these people are looking at this situation from different sides and as long as these sides are not brought together, people will be worried.

But a good discussion is possible

The municipal councillor handed a petition to the local politicians in which he argued in favour of that the voice of the inhabitants should be heard too. That would be a good step in order to understand each other better. Most important is to built confidence. In Groningen, in the Northen part of The Netherlands, a project of the NAM caused a lot of earthquakes and it took them years to admit that and to stop this project. That does not give the inhabitants of Twente reason to think that the NAM can be trusted now.

Now it is important that the NAM, or minister Kamp who is responsible for this, do something to prove that they can be trusted.

What do you think about this? Did you ever have problems with a government that could not be trusted? Or do you have positive experiences with the government? And what about your faith in science? Share your opinion on the forum or below!

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I will create the vlog that goes with this blog soon!

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Watch the vlog that goes with this blog: 

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As 'average' citizen it is often very difficult to fight big companies. The fight between the NAM and the inhabitants of Twente, where the NAM is injecting waste water into the ground, is a good example of this. Reestablishing trust is possible, but it is not easy.» Watch this vlog

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