There was a bit of grumbling on The Daily Herald’s Facebook page regarding Thursday’s report on the air quality measurements at the Philipsburg landfill. The Netherlands Institute of Public Health and Environment RIVM found “no or hardy any harmful substances” emanating from the facility, but said this could be because there were no open fires when the study took place.

To people living and/or working downwind of the – up to January – frequently burning dump this must have seemed like a rather unsatisfactory result. After all, they were the ones most directly affected by the smelly and probably toxic smoke.

Even Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops said he was “not happy” with the outcome (see related story). He explained how the stench had stung his own lungs during a visit to the location, adding that there is unhealthy stuff there underground and that joint efforts to solve the problem would continue.

Readers should consider that the RIVM research was not on the dump itself but rather in the immediately surrounding area at distance of between 500 and 2,500 metres. The company EEG&G had already done the former last year on behalf of the World Bank to assess hazards of executing a fire suppression project.

And the lack of such fires lately actually is good news. Once these can be prevented or at least strongly reduced, the question how much pollution they cause becomes less acute.

It’s therefore high time the fire suppression project gets going and people residing in what was identified as a risk zone during that process are temporarily moved to adequate alternative accommodations. This is a matter of great priority.