To: European Commission

Environment DG

Mr. Daniel CALLEJA CRESPO

 

B - 1049 Brussels, Belgium

 

Our reference:        AC011/NL

Subject: Final Derogation Nitrates Directive, Netherlands; complaint

 

To: European Commission

Environment DG

Mr. Daniel CALLEJA CRESPO

B - 1049 Brussels, Belgium

 

Our reference:        AC011/NL

Subject: Final Derogation Nitrates Directive, Netherlands; complaint

 

Netherlands, Nijmegen, 23 January 2017

This letter is sent on behalf of the following NGO's, all located in the Netherlands.

- Vereniging Leefmilieu

- Coöperatie Mobilisation for the Environment U.A. (MOB)

- Stichting Openbare Ruimte

The aforementioned NGO's wish to introduce the following concerning the forthcoming decision of the European Commission on the end or conditional extension of a new Dutch derogation of the Nitrates Directive (91/676).

This is necessary as adequate water quality is an essential precondition of life for people, nature and the environment. It is a necessary requirement for the quality of life of all Dutch citizens. The Nitrates Directive ensures the restoration and maintenance of water quality in the Netherlands.

The Nitrates Directive was published in 1991 and is an integral part of the Water Framework Directive and aims to protect surface water and groundwater against pollution caused by nitrates from agriculture, and promote sustainable agricultural practices. It replaces Directive 75/440 / EEC of 16 June 1975 concerning the quality of surface water. Since 1996, five action programs have been drafted by the Dutch government. Consequently, it follows from this that for far more than 20 years, policy has been implemented to meet minimum water quality requirements.

However, we note that in spite of more than 20 years of Dutch policy of meeting the goals of the Nitrates Directive, the average nitrate concentration in the ground and or surface water in the sand and Loess regions remains well above the standard of 50 mg / l according to the last reporting period for the Nitrates Directive (2012-2015), and the trend for the last few years again shows an increase. Nitrogen surpluses (which determine the rate of nitrate leaching in these regions) are no longer decreasing since the last reporting period. Due to major livestock expansion since the release of the milk quota, it is to be feared that what was a declining trend will now start to rise again.

In April 2016, commissioned by the European Commission, the Directorate-General for the Environment published a research report on, among other issues, compliance with the Nitrates Directive by the EU Member States under the title Resource Efficiency in Practice - Closing Mineral Cycles. The report provides an alarming picture of the Dutch situation.

If after more than 20 years of policy implementation one can still speak of an alarming situation, it must seriously taken into consideration that the Dutch government largely fails to enact effective policies. There are insufficient arguments in support of a further extension of the Dutch derogation from the Nitrates Directive in 2017. A new derogation from the Nitrates Directive must be seen as contrary to Dutch and European environmental interests. Furthermore, it is at odds with the pursuit of sustainable agriculture.

The Netherlands is the most livestock-dense country in Europe.
The negative effects of large-scale intensive livestock farming are both serious and wide-ranging. The detrimental effects are not limited to only water quality. Appendix I of this letter lists some brief descriptions of the most serious problems resulting from Dutch livestock farming.

Thereafter follow the arguments explaining why a new derogation cannot be granted to the Netherlands.

- Nitrates Directive

 

What is the intention of the current Dutch derogation of the Nitrates Directive?

The exemption, known as a derogation, means that Dutch farmers may deposit under certain conditions up until 2017, instead of 170 kilograms of nitrogen from livestock manure per hectare, 250 or 230 kg (depending on their location) of nitrogen per hectare per year.

 

In the Netherlands there are approximately forty thousand livestock farms, with total livestock including 4.1 million cattle, 107 million chickens and 12.6 million pigs, that together produce approximately 75 million tons of manure annually (CBS 2015). The Netherlands is the most livestock dense country in Europe and beyond.

The Netherlands already has decades of excessive manure surplus. This excess manure causes serious environmental damage to soil, water (nitrates and phosphates) and nature (nitrogen damage in Natura 2000 areas).
In the recent EU-report Resource Efficiency in Practice - Closing Mineral Cycles - the following findings are made clear. 

Excessive nitrogen load in freshwater

(...)

In 2013, less than 20 % of the surface water bodies in the Meuse river basin (including North-Brabant) met the WFD quality standards for total nitrogen concentration in the Meuse River Basin Management Plan (Dutch Government, 2014b). In 2009, the groundwater quality in the areas with sandy soils – large part of North-Brabant – in the Meuse river basin did not meet the WFD objective for nitrates (Dutch Government, 2014b). Agriculture is largely responsible for the high concentrations of nitrate in water. In addition, the nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations of regional waters in North-Brabant are also heavily affected by nutrient losses in upstream parts of rivers basins in Belgium, where there is also intensive agriculture (Dutch Government, 2009).

 

source: Resource Efficiency in Practice – Closing Mineral Cycles, p. 258-259

Excessive phosphorus load in freshwater

(...)

More than half of the soils of agricultural areas in the Netherlands, including North-Brabant, were saturated with phosphorus. In North-Brabant, almost all grid cells have a share of 50 % of saturated areas. In the eastern part of North-Brabant, the surplus is slightly higher than in the western part of North-Brabant. Phosphorus saturated areas are responsible for eutrophication of surface and ground waters in North-Brabant.

 

Source: Resource Efficiency in Practice – Closing Mineral Cycles, p. 262 

Eutrophication in freshwater

Phosphorus saturated areas have a high potential to cause eutrophication of surface waters and groundwater bodies that are linked to surface water bodies. The ground waters and surface waters in North-Brabant largely suffer from eutrophication (Groenendijk, et al., 2012) (Dutch Government, 2009).

(...)

In 2009, the nitrogen surplus of dairy farms on the sandy soil in the south of the Netherlands ranged from 145-150 kg/ha N UAA (Van der Ham & Daatselaar, 2012). The phosphorus surplus of dairy farms in this region was 75 kg/ha P UAA.

 

source: Resource Efficiency in Practice – Closing Mineral Cycles, p. 263-264

Preventive measures to reduce nutrients concentration in water

The Nitrates Action Programme implementing the Nitrates Directive in the Netherlands sets out a number of requirements on manure use, and consequently, on nutrient surpluses. However, the measures of the Nitrates Action Programme 2014-2017 are insufficient to meet the water quality objectives of the Water Framework Directive. 

For the Netherlands, the annual costs of measures to meet the WFD targets amount to €390 million (PBL, 2008). The majority of measures have to be taken in the regional water system for a total cost of €325 million per year, and the rest in national waters (Meuse, Rhine, Scheldt, and Ems river). North- Brabant is largely located in the Dutch part of the Meuse river basin. In the river basin management plan for the Meuse for the period 2009-2015, the investments for measures addressing diffuse sources (mainly agriculture) are calculated at €65 million for the period 2009-2027 (i.e. €3.6 million /yr during the period) (Dutch Government, 2009).

 

source: Resource Efficiency in Practice – Closing Mineral Cycles, p. 266

The Nederlandse Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) states:[1]:

 

The overall KRW (Water Framework Directive) assessment for groundwater in 2015 is mainly good. Regional problems remain; for 2021 it is estimated that 50% of groundwater sources will be inadequate for terrestrial nature and 15% for drinking water. Despite the improvement in the southern loess and sand regions the standard of 50 milligrams of nitrate per litre will still be exceeded in 2027. 

The Dutch version of the Environmental Data Compendium clearly states: [2]

Differences in nitrate concentration by region

The average nitrate concentration in run-off water in the Loess region in the last reporting period for the Nitrates Directive (2012-2015) was 75 mg / l and is still well above the standard of 50 mg / l. In the Loess region there is hardly any improvement over the previous reporting period (2008-2011). 


 

Remarkably, the Dutch webpage differs from the English version. This states:

 

 

The average nitrate concentration in groundwater in the sandy region of the Netherlands has decreased so much that the target of 50 mg/l is within reach. This is however not yet the case in the loess region, but the target has already been achieved in the clay and peat regions.

 

It must be clear that the damage to nature and the environment due to excess manure application is very great, and it can take decades before the environmental damage to soil and water is repaired. A necessary condition is that excess manure application be discontinued. Damage limitation requires that any excessive manure application be terminated as soon as possible.

Manure treatment
The Dutch government aims to reduce the existing manure surplus by encouraging manure treatment. The unilateral reliance on manure treatment faces fundamental criticism. The following aspects are here brought to your attention.

Manure fermenters increase the problem of excess nutrients, while the potential impact of the spread of pathogens is underestimated

Manure digestion and other forms of manure processing appears to date little more than an emergency measure in response to the manure surplus. It is not the view proclaimed here that manure processing should always be rejected. It should be noted however that the manner in which manure processing has developed up until now demands severe criticism. This is both a criticism of the government (which almost in desperation, and with many subsidies, is trying to boost manure processing) and of the sector itself which cannot cope with the surplus manure.

The government has wasted a lot of money through a substandard policy on manure and has neglected to make a proper environmental assessment.

And then the farmers: it is worrying that many of them seem to be not engaged with the proper functioning of manure digesters but are only interested in getting rid of the manure.

Manure problem or nutrient problem?
Strictly speaking, there is not a manure problem, but a problem with a surplus of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous. Therefore, the attempt to solve this problem with digesters should be considered strange. Strange because the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus are not susceptible to fermentation. As much of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus enter the digester as exit from it. There are currently hundreds of millions of Euros of public money in the form of subsidies going to so-called manure digesters. These ferment more fodder than manure. This is because there is not enough energy in manure for a minimum acceptable gas yield. Therefore, so-called 'energy crops' are added. In Germany, by this perverse system, now 1/3 of the corn yield goes directly into the digester (source: Rabobank). Still, the cattle must be fed, so more fodder has to be imported from South America for example. Overall, an indefensible subsidy policy. This policy is further reinforced by the fact that the provinces build digesters and all initiatives in that direction are supported with all available means. And: more of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus come out of the digester than go into it with the manure. After all, the "energy crops" also contain nitrogen and phosphorus. The problem of the excess nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus is thus increased rather than diminished by 'manure digesters'.

Digesters and soil fertility
A crucial prerequisite for good soil fertility is a sufficient amount of organic matter. In order to maintain or improve this, much biomass (carbon) is needed. In the fermentation and processing of manure this is actually removed. The deterioration of soil fertility (caused by a loss of humus content and thus the soil organisms) means that the water buffering capacity of the soil also deteriorates, and free minerals are therefore washed out much faster. The soil dries out faster and needs to be more frequently irrigated or sprayed with water. Overall a dead end.
 

Spread of zoonoses
An underestimated problem of central manure digesters is that manure from infected animals also goes into the digesters. That remains a possibility and is still permitted. Now there are some rules regarding pasteurization, but this is not always done everywhere. And even if it is done then it is certainly possible that pathogenic bacteria and viruses survive the pasteurization step and use of digestate can lead to the spread of animal diseases. Take for example thermophilic spore-forming bacteria such as XTAS-spores, which can adversely effect the quality of milk. They survive a pasteurization at 70 degrees C. Another example is anthrax that is able to survive even higher temperatures. Use of fermentation products can thereby lead to further spread of animal diseases. Intensive farming already runs a risk of serious collapse due to animal diseases, as recently revealed again the by bird flu.[3]

The already very dominant presence of the livestock sector in the Dutch countryside is increasingly losing public support among the Dutch public. The commitment of the Dutch government to the creation of large numbers of manure treatment plants is meeting with great resistance. Local residents are very worried about the weak regulation of the environmental impact on the areas surrounding the fertilizer plants. Please refer to Annex II to this letter.
The Dutch government has given the Dutch public no clear opportunity of participation or consultation on its position on the Dutch obligations under the Nitrates Directive.

Up until now, the Dutch government has neglected to take into consideration the possibility of shrinking the excessive size of the Dutch livestock herd. A contraction of livestock is a more than viable option since for many years the number of livestock farms has been shrinking, and thus production space is reduced naturally. However, the Dutch authorities allow for the manure production quotas of the livestock farms that are closing to be put on the market and sold to other livestock farms wishing to expand, without any reduction in some form of these production rights.

Until recently, the Dutch government also permitted ammonia emission rights to be traded without any reduction of these emission rights.

The Dutch dairy herd has risen sharply in recent years.
The Dutch government could and should have foreseen that the dairy sector would expand with the expiry of the milk quota. The government should be blamed for their flawed approach in preventing the growth of the livestock herds.
An extension of the derogation would be in opposition to the objectives of the Nitrate Directive.

A new derogation is incompatible with the Dutch and European interest of limiting the harmful effects of livestock production and bringing them into accordance with environmental requirements.
You are requested not to consent to a new Dutch derogation for the Nitrates Directive.

Conclusion
The decision of your Committee on the Dutch derogation touches on the credibility of European environmental policy. The past 40 years of Dutch policy efforts attempting to come into compliance with the requirements of the Nitrates Directive can only be called seriously inadequate. The Dutch government is blameworthy of not drawing conclusions resulting from the serious damage caused by the excessive size of the Dutch livestock herd.

You are requested to take the contents of this letter into account in your decision regarding the request of the Dutch government for a further extension of the Nitrates Directive.
We are of course available for any further clarification.

On behalf of Mobilisation for the Environment, Association of Environment and Public Space Foundation,
Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

drs. ing. Johan G. Vollenbroek 

Copy:
- the Dutch government,
  c / o State Secretary for Economic Affairs, PO Box 20401, 2500 EK The Hague

 ======================================================= 

Appendix I with letter MOB Final Derogation Nitrates Directive dated January 23, 2017

The inadequate approach of the state regarding the pollution of water and soil by livestock does not stand in isolation. Dutch livestock farming is the cause of multiple, partially related problems, which the Dutch government deals with inadequately.
This will be expanded on below.

- Inadequate protection against health risks
Due to the Dutch livestock sector a potentially drastic deterioration in the quality of life of residents exists as a result of, among other things, particulates, endotoxins and zoonoses.

The health risks of endotoxins and zoonoses have been extensively studied in the Netherlands. This research is a direct result of a series of deaths due to Q fever, caused by large-scale goat farms.
In the meantime, several research reports have been published, and also a number of opinions issued by relevant expert bodies. To date, the Dutch government has not come up with a tangible response to reduce the health risks to an acceptable level.
Please refer to the following websites:

www.rivm.nl/Onderwerpen/V/Veehouderij_en_gezondheid/Onderzoek_veehouderij_en_gezondheid_omwonenden_VGO

www.ggdhvb.nl/nieuws/2016/07/Maatregelen-nodig-om-gezondheidsrisico-s-voor-omwonenden-veehouderijen-te-beperken

The indecisive response of the Dutch public administration to the Q fever outbreak should be born in mind. The National Ombudsman published a report on the inadequate action taken by the Dutch government. Reference is made to the relevant Ombudsman's report:

www.nationaleombudsman.nl/nieuws/2012/nationale-ombudsman-over-de-qkoortsaanpak-de-overheid-heeft-het-vertrouwen-van-de

At present a patient organization has started legal proceedings to establish the liability of the Dutch government for damages incurred as a result of their inadequate and reprehensible response. Please refer to the following website:

www.stichtingquestion.nl

- Inadequate protection against odour pollution
The odour from livestock leads to a significant deterioration in the quality of life of people living near farms. The legally established Dutch standards for odour levels are controversial. The requirements that need to be met by the livestock industry in order to limit the effects of odour emissions is weak, even though the available environmental techniques could offer a much higher level of protection. The current level of protection for local residents is seriously inadequate.
Reference is made to the GGD Note: Opinions GGD on Self Evaluation Act odours and livestock of 29 May 2015. See:

www.ggdghor.nl/media/filebank/c926e74e77064eb3bdaf952df7777b2f.pdf

There follows a reference to the website of the civic organization Max5Odeur for further information about the insufficient protection offered by the Wet geurhinder en veehouderij (Law on odour emissions from livestock).

www.max5odeur.nl/?page_id=27

- Habitat directive, severe environmental damage by nitrogen

For decades, the Dutch government has shown no ambition in dealing with the ammonia emissions resulting from the livestock herd. Reference is made to the Mobilisation web page:

www.mobilisation.nl/index.php?id=37

Programmatic Approach Nitrogen, established by the Dutch government as a result of the Habitats Directive, is controversial, and is now the subject of legal proceedings at the highest Dutch administrative court, the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State (Raad van State). It is controversial because of both the extremely low level of ambition (in 2060 the ecological policy goals will still not be reached) as well as conflicts with the legal requirements.
We refer to the press release of the Council of State.

www.raadvanstate.nl/pers/persberichten/tekst-persbericht.html?id=991&summary_only=&category_id=8

- Subsidy for intensive livestock farming, I
Meanwhile, a business size of more than 10,000 pigs or 100,000 laying hens has become customary in the Dutch livestock industry. Such a business volume is currently allowed by the Dutch government in the immediate proximity of residents and / or sensitive natural areas.
In Grubbenvorst (municipality of Horst aan de Maas) at present a pig farm is being established with space for 36,000 pigs, as well as a broiler business for keeping 1.1 million broilers. These business initiatives are moreover proposed within a short distance of local residents. These business initiatives have furthermore been established with a grant from the Dutch government. Please refer to the following website:

www.nos.nl/artikel/393267-subsidie-voor-gigastal-limburg.html

www.wakkerdier.nl/persberichten/gigastal-krijgt-miljoenen-subsidie

- Subsidy for intensive farming, II
The livestock sector have also been provided with tens of millions of Euros in subsidies to encourage the use of air scrubbing techniques. However, the proper functioning of the scrubbers often appears flawed.

Moreover, the subsidies are at odds with the principle of 'the polluter pays'. Currently the Dutch taxpayer funds a significant part of the – presumably flawed - functioning scrubbers.
For an estimate of the size of the subsidies refer to the publication of Stichting Wakker Dier. See:

www.wakkerdier.nl/uploads/media_items/rapport-luchtwassers-2015.original.pdf

- Weak enforcement of the prevailing environmental regulations
To the extent that legal rules exist, the Dutch government inadequately enforces compliance with those rules. For example, there is a lack of enforcement of the emission reducing stable technologies, more specifically the air scrubbing technologies.
Reference is made to some of the reports issued by central government that reveal this lack of enforcement.

Monitoring and compliance oversights by the IPPC branch of  intensive livestock sector; Research into air scrubber systems and the effect on ammonia emissions (Environment and Transport Inspectorate, 2012). Available online at:

www.ilent.nl/onderwerpen/leefomgeving/risicovolle_bedrijven_en_activiteiten/publicaties_en_rapporten/

Province of North Brabant; Results Brabant wide supervisory approach scrubbers 2011-2012

www.brabant.nl/applicaties/sis/download.ashx?qvi=44331

From the Dutch media, Vrij Nederland May 28, 2013: Inadequate supervision: it stinks in pigsty Netherlands

www.vn.nl/falend-toezicht-het-stinkt-in-varkensstal-nederland/

Furthermore reference is made to an even more blatant enforcement deficit under the obligations of the Habitats Directive. Possibly thousands of existing livestock farms have been illegally expanded without any intervention by the Dutch government. Please refer below to the government sponsored research:

Decentralization nature: Northern provinces to move; Northern Court, January 22 2014).

From this study the following passage is cited:

The administration of the province of Drenthe has, until the PAS definitively enters into force, set their own interim policy in December 2012 to regulate the nitrogen deposition in Natura 2000 areas. This policy is based on a recommendation contained in the Green Manifesto Drenthe. The province has up until mid-2013 granted  EU Habitat Directive permits to more than 300 agricultural businesses. In late 2013 the provincial administration decided to suspend the authorization of permits until February 1, 2014. The province gives as its reason that the interim policy makes a potential doubling of agricultural businesses possible and represents a risk to the successful application of the PAS[4] from 2014. In addition, there is the problem of the so-called interim extenders, agricultural companies without EU Habitat Directive permits that have expanded between 1994 and 2009. This applies to potentially some 1,000 companies. 

See:

www.noordelijkerekenkamer.nl/nl/onderzoek/actuele-rapporten/79-decentralisatie-natuurbeleid-de-noordelijke-provincies-aan-zet

-Dutch government's reputation for lack of responsible environmental care
The Dutch public administration, in the opinion of many, has developed a negative reputation in the past 20 years concerning its duties of care for the Dutch environment. The Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency recently published the following official report on the substandard direction by the Dutch government. This report also discusses the impact of farming on the environment.

www.pbl.nl/nieuws/nieuwsberichten/2016/richtinggevend-rijksbeleid-nodig-om-uitstoot-broeikasgassen-te-beperken

In a recent farewell speech, professor and former Agricultural Minister Cees Veerman criticized the lack of leadership:

www.resource.wur.nl/nl/show/Veerman-oordeelt-voor-de-laatste-keer-.htm

- Overview incomplete
The above list is incomplete. The unsightly spatial effects of bulky buildings in the landscape, the impact of heavy goods vehicles for farming (fertilizer, feed, and animal transport) on the local population, the often deficient animal welfare standards, the over cropping due to the production of animal fodder and the contribution of livestock herds to greenhouse gas emissions should not remain unmentioned.

- Summary
Many EU Member States have their own specific environmental problems. The Dutch environmental damage is largely due to the exceptional density of livestock, and the consequently exceptionally high manure production (about 75 million tons of manure annually).

To date, the Dutch government has let the short-term business interests of roughly forty thousand livestock farmers prevail above the interests and quality of life of seventeen million Dutch citizens.

The Dutch livestock sector currently has weak public support from the Dutch population. The Dutch government's response to limiting the environmental impact of intensive farming is inadequate. Given the high population density of the country and the impact of the exceptional density of livestock in the Netherlands on its people and environment, there is an urgent need for a decisive change of direction.

====================================================

Appendix II by letter MOB Final Derogation Nitrates Directive dated January 23, 2017


Many Dutch citizens are deeply concerned about the promotion of manure treatment by the Dutch government. Below is a list of website of concerned citizens and media reports about local manure treatment projects.

Asten:

https://petities.nl/petitions/geen-mestfabriek-in-asten?

Roosendaal:

http://www.omroepbrabant.nl/?news/2478551183/Verzet+tegen+‘stinkende’+mestfabriek+in+Roosendaal+‘We+vrezen+voor+onze+gezondheid.aspx

Landhorst:

http://www.stopmestfabriek.nl 

Oss:

http://www.bd.nl/regio/oss-uden-veghel-e-o/oss/verzet-in-oss-ook-stad-praat-nu-over-mestfabrieken-1.6085312

Horst aan de Maas:

http://www.1limburg.nl/verzet-tegen-uitbreiding-biogasinstallatie-ashorst-horst 

Tirns:

http://www.max5odeur.nl/?p=324

Groenlo:

http://megamestvergistergroenlonee.nl

Dalfsen:

http://www.destentor.nl/regio/dalfsen/mestprotest-dalfsen-ontspoort-1.4787069

Varsseveld:

http://www.gelderlander.nl/regio/achterhoek/waarschuwing-komst-vergister-naar-varsseveld-1.2261694

Deurne:

http://www.ed.nl/regio/deurne-e-o/deurne/massaal-protest-tegen-mestfabriek-deurne-1.3627614

Zenderen:

http://www.tubantia.nl/regio/hengelo-en-omgeving/borne/protest-mestfabriek-zenderen-tot-aan-raad-van-state-1.4979175

Helmond:

http://www.ed.nl/regio/helmond/onrust-over-meer-stank-den-ouden-in-helmond-1.6227589

Witteveen:

http://www.rtvdrenthe.nl/nieuws/86583/Stankoverlast-door-biovergister-in-Witteveen

Wanroy:

http://www.gelderlander.nl/regio/maasland/st-anthonis/opnieuw-klachten-over-geluid-en-stank-van-mestverwerker-cleanergy-1.5997473

Kreijel:

http://www.agripress.nl/start/artikel/551695/nl

Venray:

http://www.peelenmaasvenray.nl/nieuws/venray/55376/ophef-mestfabriek-aan-metaalweg

 Grubbenvorst

http://www.behouddeparel.nl/?q=node/3965


[1] http://themasites.pbl.nl/balansvandeleefomgeving/jaargang-2016/themas/water/kwaliteit-en-kwantiteit-grondwater

[2] http://www.clo.nl/indicatoren/nl0271-nitraat-in-het-uitspoelend-water-onder-landbouwbedrijven

[3] http://www.mobilisation.nl/index.php?id=37

[4] Dutch administrative programme by virtue of teh Habitat Directive aiming on nitrogen emission and deposition reduction [addition of JV]


Lees meer

 

To: European Commission

Environment DG

Mr. Daniel CALLEJA CRESPO

 

B - 1049 Brussels, Belgium

 

Our reference:        AC011/NL

Subject: Final Derogation Nitrates Directive, Netherlands; complaint

 

To: European Commission

Environment DG

Mr. Daniel CALLEJA CRESPO

B - 1049 Brussels, Belgium

 

Our reference:        AC011/NL

Subject: Final Derogation Nitrates Directive, Netherlands; complaint

 

Netherlands, Nijmegen, 23 January 2017

This letter is sent on behalf of the following NGO's, all located in the Netherlands.

- Vereniging Leefmilieu

- Coöperatie Mobilisation for the Environment U.A. (MOB)

- Stichting Openbare Ruimte

The aforementioned NGO's wish to introduce the following concerning the forthcoming decision of the European Commission on the end or conditional extension of a new Dutch derogation of the Nitrates Directive (91/676).

This is necessary as adequate water quality is an essential precondition of life for people, nature and the environment. It is a necessary requirement for the quality of life of all Dutch citizens. The Nitrates Directive ensures the restoration and maintenance of water quality in the Netherlands.

The Nitrates Directive was published in 1991 and is an integral part of the Water Framework Directive and aims to protect surface water and groundwater against pollution caused by nitrates from agriculture, and promote sustainable agricultural practices. It replaces Directive 75/440 / EEC of 16 June 1975 concerning the quality of surface water. Since 1996, five action programs have been drafted by the Dutch government. Consequently, it follows from this that for far more than 20 years, policy has been implemented to meet minimum water quality requirements.

However, we note that in spite of more than 20 years of Dutch policy of meeting the goals of the Nitrates Directive, the average nitrate concentration in the ground and or surface water in the sand and Loess regions remains well above the standard of 50 mg / l according to the last reporting period for the Nitrates Directive (2012-2015), and the trend for the last few years again shows an increase. Nitrogen surpluses (which determine the rate of nitrate leaching in these regions) are no longer decreasing since the last reporting period. Due to major livestock expansion since the release of the milk quota, it is to be feared that what was a declining trend will now start to rise again.

In April 2016, commissioned by the European Commission, the Directorate-General for the Environment published a research report on, among other issues, compliance with the Nitrates Directive by the EU Member States under the title Resource Efficiency in Practice - Closing Mineral Cycles. The report provides an alarming picture of the Dutch situation.

If after more than 20 years of policy implementation one can still speak of an alarming situation, it must seriously taken into consideration that the Dutch government largely fails to enact effective policies. There are insufficient arguments in support of a further extension of the Dutch derogation from the Nitrates Directive in 2017. A new derogation from the Nitrates Directive must be seen as contrary to Dutch and European environmental interests. Furthermore, it is at odds with the pursuit of sustainable agriculture.

The Netherlands is the most livestock-dense country in Europe.
The negative effects of large-scale intensive livestock farming are both serious and wide-ranging. The detrimental effects are not limited to only water quality. Appendix I of this letter lists some brief descriptions of the most serious problems resulting from Dutch livestock farming.

Thereafter follow the arguments explaining why a new derogation cannot be granted to the Netherlands.

- Nitrates Directive

 

What is the intention of the current Dutch derogation of the Nitrates Directive?

The exemption, known as a derogation, means that Dutch farmers may deposit under certain conditions up until 2017, instead of 170 kilograms of nitrogen from livestock manure per hectare, 250 or 230 kg (depending on their location) of nitrogen per hectare per year.

 

In the Netherlands there are approximately forty thousand livestock farms, with total livestock including 4.1 million cattle, 107 million chickens and 12.6 million pigs, that together produce approximately 75 million tons of manure annually (CBS 2015). The Netherlands is the most livestock dense country in Europe and beyond.

The Netherlands already has decades of excessive manure surplus. This excess manure causes serious environmental damage to soil, water (nitrates and phosphates) and nature (nitrogen damage in Natura 2000 areas).
In the recent EU-report Resource Efficiency in Practice - Closing Mineral Cycles - the following findings are made clear. 

Excessive nitrogen load in freshwater

(...)

In 2013, less than 20 % of the surface water bodies in the Meuse river basin (including North-Brabant) met the WFD quality standards for total nitrogen concentration in the Meuse River Basin Management Plan (Dutch Government, 2014b). In 2009, the groundwater quality in the areas with sandy soils – large part of North-Brabant – in the Meuse river basin did not meet the WFD objective for nitrates (Dutch Government, 2014b). Agriculture is largely responsible for the high concentrations of nitrate in water. In addition, the nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations of regional waters in North-Brabant are also heavily affected by nutrient losses in upstream parts of rivers basins in Belgium, where there is also intensive agriculture (Dutch Government, 2009).

 

source: Resource Efficiency in Practice – Closing Mineral Cycles, p. 258-259

Excessive phosphorus load in freshwater

(...)

More than half of the soils of agricultural areas in the Netherlands, including North-Brabant, were saturated with phosphorus. In North-Brabant, almost all grid cells have a share of 50 % of saturated areas. In the eastern part of North-Brabant, the surplus is slightly higher than in the western part of North-Brabant. Phosphorus saturated areas are responsible for eutrophication of surface and ground waters in North-Brabant.

 

Source: Resource Efficiency in Practice – Closing Mineral Cycles, p. 262 

Eutrophication in freshwater

Phosphorus saturated areas have a high potential to cause eutrophication of surface waters and groundwater bodies that are linked to surface water bodies. The ground waters and surface waters in North-Brabant largely suffer from eutrophication (Groenendijk, et al., 2012) (Dutch Government, 2009).

(...)

In 2009, the nitrogen surplus of dairy farms on the sandy soil in the south of the Netherlands ranged from 145-150 kg/ha N UAA (Van der Ham & Daatselaar, 2012). The phosphorus surplus of dairy farms in this region was 75 kg/ha P UAA.

 

source: Resource Efficiency in Practice – Closing Mineral Cycles, p. 263-264

Preventive measures to reduce nutrients concentration in water

The Nitrates Action Programme implementing the Nitrates Directive in the Netherlands sets out a number of requirements on manure use, and consequently, on nutrient surpluses. However, the measures of the Nitrates Action Programme 2014-2017 are insufficient to meet the water quality objectives of the Water Framework Directive. 

For the Netherlands, the annual costs of measures to meet the WFD targets amount to €390 million (PBL, 2008). The majority of measures have to be taken in the regional water system for a total cost of €325 million per year, and the rest in national waters (Meuse, Rhine, Scheldt, and Ems river). North- Brabant is largely located in the Dutch part of the Meuse river basin. In the river basin management plan for the Meuse for the period 2009-2015, the investments for measures addressing diffuse sources (mainly agriculture) are calculated at €65 million for the period 2009-2027 (i.e. €3.6 million /yr during the period) (Dutch Government, 2009).

 

source: Resource Efficiency in Practice – Closing Mineral Cycles, p. 266

The Nederlandse Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) states:[1]:

 

The overall KRW (Water Framework Directive) assessment for groundwater in 2015 is mainly good. Regional problems remain; for 2021 it is estimated that 50% of groundwater sources will be inadequate for terrestrial nature and 15% for drinking water. Despite the improvement in the southern loess and sand regions the standard of 50 milligrams of nitrate per litre will still be exceeded in 2027. 

The Dutch version of the Environmental Data Compendium clearly states: [2]

Differences in nitrate concentration by region

The average nitrate concentration in run-off water in the Loess region in the last reporting period for the Nitrates Directive (2012-2015) was 75 mg / l and is still well above the standard of 50 mg / l. In the Loess region there is hardly any improvement over the previous reporting period (2008-2011). 


 

Remarkably, the Dutch webpage differs from the English version. This states:

 

 

The average nitrate concentration in groundwater in the sandy region of the Netherlands has decreased so much that the target of 50 mg/l is within reach. This is however not yet the case in the loess region, but the target has already been achieved in the clay and peat regions.

 

It must be clear that the damage to nature and the environment due to excess manure application is very great, and it can take decades before the environmental damage to soil and water is repaired. A necessary condition is that excess manure application be discontinued. Damage limitation requires that any excessive manure application be terminated as soon as possible.

Manure treatment
The Dutch government aims to reduce the existing manure surplus by encouraging manure treatment. The unilateral reliance on manure treatment faces fundamental criticism. The following aspects are here brought to your attention.

Manure fermenters increase the problem of excess nutrients, while the potential impact of the spread of pathogens is underestimated

Manure digestion and other forms of manure processing appears to date little more than an emergency measure in response to the manure surplus. It is not the view proclaimed here that manure processing should always be rejected. It should be noted however that the manner in which manure processing has developed up until now demands severe criticism. This is both a criticism of the government (which almost in desperation, and with many subsidies, is trying to boost manure processing) and of the sector itself which cannot cope with the surplus manure.

The government has wasted a lot of money through a substandard policy on manure and has neglected to make a proper environmental assessment.

And then the farmers: it is worrying that many of them seem to be not engaged with the proper functioning of manure digesters but are only interested in getting rid of the manure.

Manure problem or nutrient problem?
Strictly speaking, there is not a manure problem, but a problem with a surplus of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous. Therefore, the attempt to solve this problem with digesters should be considered strange. Strange because the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus are not susceptible to fermentation. As much of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus enter the digester as exit from it. There are currently hundreds of millions of Euros of public money in the form of subsidies going to so-called manure digesters. These ferment more fodder than manure. This is because there is not enough energy in manure for a minimum acceptable gas yield. Therefore, so-called 'energy crops' are added. In Germany, by this perverse system, now 1/3 of the corn yield goes directly into the digester (source: Rabobank). Still, the cattle must be fed, so more fodder has to be imported from South America for example. Overall, an indefensible subsidy policy. This policy is further reinforced by the fact that the provinces build digesters and all initiatives in that direction are supported with all available means. And: more of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus come out of the digester than go into it with the manure. After all, the "energy crops" also contain nitrogen and phosphorus. The problem of the excess nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus is thus increased rather than diminished by 'manure digesters'.

Digesters and soil fertility
A crucial prerequisite for good soil fertility is a sufficient amount of organic matter. In order to maintain or improve this, much biomass (carbon) is needed. In the fermentation and processing of manure this is actually removed. The deterioration of soil fertility (caused by a loss of humus content and thus the soil organisms) means that the water buffering capacity of the soil also deteriorates, and free minerals are therefore washed out much faster. The soil dries out faster and needs to be more frequently irrigated or sprayed with water. Overall a dead end.
 

Spread of zoonoses
An underestimated problem of central manure digesters is that manure from infected animals also goes into the digesters. That remains a possibility and is still permitted. Now there are some rules regarding pasteurization, but this is not always done everywhere. And even if it is done then it is certainly possible that pathogenic bacteria and viruses survive the pasteurization step and use of digestate can lead to the spread of animal diseases. Take for example thermophilic spore-forming bacteria such as XTAS-spores, which can adversely effect the quality of milk. They survive a pasteurization at 70 degrees C. Another example is anthrax that is able to survive even higher temperatures. Use of fermentation products can thereby lead to further spread of animal diseases. Intensive farming already runs a risk of serious collapse due to animal diseases, as recently revealed again the by bird flu.[3]

The already very dominant presence of the livestock sector in the Dutch countryside is increasingly losing public support among the Dutch public. The commitment of the Dutch government to the creation of large numbers of manure treatment plants is meeting with great resistance. Local residents are very worried about the weak regulation of the environmental impact on the areas surrounding the fertilizer plants. Please refer to Annex II to this letter.
The Dutch government has given the Dutch public no clear opportunity of participation or consultation on its position on the Dutch obligations under the Nitrates Directive.

Up until now, the Dutch government has neglected to take into consideration the possibility of shrinking the excessive size of the Dutch livestock herd. A contraction of livestock is a more than viable option since for many years the number of livestock farms has been shrinking, and thus production space is reduced naturally. However, the Dutch authorities allow for the manure production quotas of the livestock farms that are closing to be put on the market and sold to other livestock farms wishing to expand, without any reduction in some form of these production rights.

Until recently, the Dutch government also permitted ammonia emission rights to be traded without any reduction of these emission rights.

The Dutch dairy herd has risen sharply in recent years.
The Dutch government could and should have foreseen that the dairy sector would expand with the expiry of the milk quota. The government should be blamed for their flawed approach in preventing the growth of the livestock herds.
An extension of the derogation would be in opposition to the objectives of the Nitrate Directive.

A new derogation is incompatible with the Dutch and European interest of limiting the harmful effects of livestock production and bringing them into accordance with environmental requirements.
You are requested not to consent to a new Dutch derogation for the Nitrates Directive.

Conclusion
The decision of your Committee on the Dutch derogation touches on the credibility of European environmental policy. The past 40 years of Dutch policy efforts attempting to come into compliance with the requirements of the Nitrates Directive can only be called seriously inadequate. The Dutch government is blameworthy of not drawing conclusions resulting from the serious damage caused by the excessive size of the Dutch livestock herd.

You are requested to take the contents of this letter into account in your decision regarding the request of the Dutch government for a further extension of the Nitrates Directive.
We are of course available for any further clarification.

On behalf of Mobilisation for the Environment, Association of Environment and Public Space Foundation,
Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

drs. ing. Johan G. Vollenbroek 

Copy:
- the Dutch government,
  c / o State Secretary for Economic Affairs, PO Box 20401, 2500 EK The Hague

 ======================================================= 

Appendix I with letter MOB Final Derogation Nitrates Directive dated January 23, 2017

The inadequate approach of the state regarding the pollution of water and soil by livestock does not stand in isolation. Dutch livestock farming is the cause of multiple, partially related problems, which the Dutch government deals with inadequately.
This will be expanded on below.

- Inadequate protection against health risks
Due to the Dutch livestock sector a potentially drastic deterioration in the quality of life of residents exists as a result of, among other things, particulates, endotoxins and zoonoses.

The health risks of endotoxins and zoonoses have been extensively studied in the Netherlands. This research is a direct result of a series of deaths due to Q fever, caused by large-scale goat farms.
In the meantime, several research reports have been published, and also a number of opinions issued by relevant expert bodies. To date, the Dutch government has not come up with a tangible response to reduce the health risks to an acceptable level.
Please refer to the following websites:

www.rivm.nl/Onderwerpen/V/Veehouderij_en_gezondheid/Onderzoek_veehouderij_en_gezondheid_omwonenden_VGO

www.ggdhvb.nl/nieuws/2016/07/Maatregelen-nodig-om-gezondheidsrisico-s-voor-omwonenden-veehouderijen-te-beperken

The indecisive response of the Dutch public administration to the Q fever outbreak should be born in mind. The National Ombudsman published a report on the inadequate action taken by the Dutch government. Reference is made to the relevant Ombudsman's report:

www.nationaleombudsman.nl/nieuws/2012/nationale-ombudsman-over-de-qkoortsaanpak-de-overheid-heeft-het-vertrouwen-van-de

At present a patient organization has started legal proceedings to establish the liability of the Dutch government for damages incurred as a result of their inadequate and reprehensible response. Please refer to the following website:

www.stichtingquestion.nl

- Inadequate protection against odour pollution
The odour from livestock leads to a significant deterioration in the quality of life of people living near farms. The legally established Dutch standards for odour levels are controversial. The requirements that need to be met by the livestock industry in order to limit the effects of odour emissions is weak, even though the available environmental techniques could offer a much higher level of protection. The current level of protection for local residents is seriously inadequate.
Reference is made to the GGD Note: Opinions GGD on Self Evaluation Act odours and livestock of 29 May 2015. See:

www.ggdghor.nl/media/filebank/c926e74e77064eb3bdaf952df7777b2f.pdf

There follows a reference to the website of the civic organization Max5Odeur for further information about the insufficient protection offered by the Wet geurhinder en veehouderij (Law on odour emissions from livestock).

www.max5odeur.nl/?page_id=27

- Habitat directive, severe environmental damage by nitrogen

For decades, the Dutch government has shown no ambition in dealing with the ammonia emissions resulting from the livestock herd. Reference is made to the Mobilisation web page:

www.mobilisation.nl/index.php?id=37

Programmatic Approach Nitrogen, established by the Dutch government as a result of the Habitats Directive, is controversial, and is now the subject of legal proceedings at the highest Dutch administrative court, the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State (Raad van State). It is controversial because of both the extremely low level of ambition (in 2060 the ecological policy goals will still not be reached) as well as conflicts with the legal requirements.
We refer to the press release of the Council of State.

www.raadvanstate.nl/pers/persberichten/tekst-persbericht.html?id=991&summary_only=&category_id=8

- Subsidy for intensive livestock farming, I
Meanwhile, a business size of more than 10,000 pigs or 100,000 laying hens has become customary in the Dutch livestock industry. Such a business volume is currently allowed by the Dutch government in the immediate proximity of residents and / or sensitive natural areas.
In Grubbenvorst (municipality of Horst aan de Maas) at present a pig farm is being established with space for 36,000 pigs, as well as a broiler business for keeping 1.1 million broilers. These business initiatives are moreover proposed within a short distance of local residents. These business initiatives have furthermore been established with a grant from the Dutch government. Please refer to the following website:

www.nos.nl/artikel/393267-subsidie-voor-gigastal-limburg.html

www.wakkerdier.nl/persberichten/gigastal-krijgt-miljoenen-subsidie

- Subsidy for intensive farming, II
The livestock sector have also been provided with tens of millions of Euros in subsidies to encourage the use of air scrubbing techniques. However, the proper functioning of the scrubbers often appears flawed.

Moreover, the subsidies are at odds with the principle of 'the polluter pays'. Currently the Dutch taxpayer funds a significant part of the – presumably flawed - functioning scrubbers.
For an estimate of the size of the subsidies refer to the publication of Stichting Wakker Dier. See:

www.wakkerdier.nl/uploads/media_items/rapport-luchtwassers-2015.original.pdf

- Weak enforcement of the prevailing environmental regulations
To the extent that legal rules exist, the Dutch government inadequately enforces compliance with those rules. For example, there is a lack of enforcement of the emission reducing stable technologies, more specifically the air scrubbing technologies.
Reference is made to some of the reports issued by central government that reveal this lack of enforcement.

Monitoring and compliance oversights by the IPPC branch of  intensive livestock sector; Research into air scrubber systems and the effect on ammonia emissions (Environment and Transport Inspectorate, 2012). Available online at:

www.ilent.nl/onderwerpen/leefomgeving/risicovolle_bedrijven_en_activiteiten/publicaties_en_rapporten/

Province of North Brabant; Results Brabant wide supervisory approach scrubbers 2011-2012

www.brabant.nl/applicaties/sis/download.ashx?qvi=44331

From the Dutch media, Vrij Nederland May 28, 2013: Inadequate supervision: it stinks in pigsty Netherlands

www.vn.nl/falend-toezicht-het-stinkt-in-varkensstal-nederland/

Furthermore reference is made to an even more blatant enforcement deficit under the obligations of the Habitats Directive. Possibly thousands of existing livestock farms have been illegally expanded without any intervention by the Dutch government. Please refer below to the government sponsored research:

Decentralization nature: Northern provinces to move; Northern Court, January 22 2014).

From this study the following passage is cited:

The administration of the province of Drenthe has, until the PAS definitively enters into force, set their own interim policy in December 2012 to regulate the nitrogen deposition in Natura 2000 areas. This policy is based on a recommendation contained in the Green Manifesto Drenthe. The province has up until mid-2013 granted  EU Habitat Directive permits to more than 300 agricultural businesses. In late 2013 the provincial administration decided to suspend the authorization of permits until February 1, 2014. The province gives as its reason that the interim policy makes a potential doubling of agricultural businesses possible and represents a risk to the successful application of the PAS[4] from 2014. In addition, there is the problem of the so-called interim extenders, agricultural companies without EU Habitat Directive permits that have expanded between 1994 and 2009. This applies to potentially some 1,000 companies. 

See:

www.noordelijkerekenkamer.nl/nl/onderzoek/actuele-rapporten/79-decentralisatie-natuurbeleid-de-noordelijke-provincies-aan-zet

-Dutch government's reputation for lack of responsible environmental care
The Dutch public administration, in the opinion of many, has developed a negative reputation in the past 20 years concerning its duties of care for the Dutch environment. The Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency recently published the following official report on the substandard direction by the Dutch government. This report also discusses the impact of farming on the environment.

www.pbl.nl/nieuws/nieuwsberichten/2016/richtinggevend-rijksbeleid-nodig-om-uitstoot-broeikasgassen-te-beperken

In a recent farewell speech, professor and former Agricultural Minister Cees Veerman criticized the lack of leadership:

www.resource.wur.nl/nl/show/Veerman-oordeelt-voor-de-laatste-keer-.htm

- Overview incomplete
The above list is incomplete. The unsightly spatial effects of bulky buildings in the landscape, the impact of heavy goods vehicles for farming (fertilizer, feed, and animal transport) on the local population, the often deficient animal welfare standards, the over cropping due to the production of animal fodder and the contribution of livestock herds to greenhouse gas emissions should not remain unmentioned.

- Summary
Many EU Member States have their own specific environmental problems. The Dutch environmental damage is largely due to the exceptional density of livestock, and the consequently exceptionally high manure production (about 75 million tons of manure annually).

To date, the Dutch government has let the short-term business interests of roughly forty thousand livestock farmers prevail above the interests and quality of life of seventeen million Dutch citizens.

The Dutch livestock sector currently has weak public support from the Dutch population. The Dutch government's response to limiting the environmental impact of intensive farming is inadequate. Given the high population density of the country and the impact of the exceptional density of livestock in the Netherlands on its people and environment, there is an urgent need for a decisive change of direction.

====================================================

Appendix II by letter MOB Final Derogation Nitrates Directive dated January 23, 2017


Many Dutch citizens are deeply concerned about the promotion of manure treatment by the Dutch government. Below is a list of website of concerned citizens and media reports about local manure treatment projects.

Asten:

https://petities.nl/petitions/geen-mestfabriek-in-asten?

Roosendaal:

http://www.omroepbrabant.nl/?news/2478551183/Verzet+tegen+‘stinkende’+mestfabriek+in+Roosendaal+‘We+vrezen+voor+onze+gezondheid.aspx

Landhorst:

http://www.stopmestfabriek.nl 

Oss:

http://www.bd.nl/regio/oss-uden-veghel-e-o/oss/verzet-in-oss-ook-stad-praat-nu-over-mestfabrieken-1.6085312

Horst aan de Maas:

http://www.1limburg.nl/verzet-tegen-uitbreiding-biogasinstallatie-ashorst-horst 

Tirns:

http://www.max5odeur.nl/?p=324

Groenlo:

http://megamestvergistergroenlonee.nl

Dalfsen:

http://www.destentor.nl/regio/dalfsen/mestprotest-dalfsen-ontspoort-1.4787069

Varsseveld:

http://www.gelderlander.nl/regio/achterhoek/waarschuwing-komst-vergister-naar-varsseveld-1.2261694

Deurne:

http://www.ed.nl/regio/deurne-e-o/deurne/massaal-protest-tegen-mestfabriek-deurne-1.3627614

Zenderen:

http://www.tubantia.nl/regio/hengelo-en-omgeving/borne/protest-mestfabriek-zenderen-tot-aan-raad-van-state-1.4979175

Helmond:

http://www.ed.nl/regio/helmond/onrust-over-meer-stank-den-ouden-in-helmond-1.6227589

Witteveen:

http://www.rtvdrenthe.nl/nieuws/86583/Stankoverlast-door-biovergister-in-Witteveen

Wanroy:

http://www.gelderlander.nl/regio/maasland/st-anthonis/opnieuw-klachten-over-geluid-en-stank-van-mestverwerker-cleanergy-1.5997473

Kreijel:

http://www.agripress.nl/start/artikel/551695/nl

Venray:

http://www.peelenmaasvenray.nl/nieuws/venray/55376/ophef-mestfabriek-aan-metaalweg

 Grubbenvorst

http://www.behouddeparel.nl/?q=node/3965


[1] http://themasites.pbl.nl/balansvandeleefomgeving/jaargang-2016/themas/water/kwaliteit-en-kwantiteit-grondwater

[2] http://www.clo.nl/indicatoren/nl0271-nitraat-in-het-uitspoelend-water-onder-landbouwbedrijven

[3] http://www.mobilisation.nl/index.php?id=37

[4] Dutch administrative programme by virtue of teh Habitat Directive aiming on nitrogen emission and deposition reduction [addition of JV]


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