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Other News December 10, 2022

Exhibition 'Operation garbagedump'

From surgical scissors and urinary tubes to pharmacy bottles, X-ray sheets and uranium glass. Accidently, one of our volunteers stumbled upon a 100-year-old dump of hospital waste, in the Zijl River, near Leiden.

Coincidental find
Edward discovered that the entire bottom was littered with glass at the spot where he enters the water weekly with his canoe. The clean-up volunteers went to investigate and collected hundreds of kilograms of glass and other debris. The dump site is located at a dog beach, where water sports enthusiasts also enter the water daily. But even before your knees touch the water, you are already walking through shards of glass, needles and other medical waste. Mercury, pieces of asbestos and ampoules were also found.

100 years old
The source quickly gave itself away, again and again we found pieces of waste with the words "Academisch Ziekenhuis Leiden," which we now know as LUMC. Several datable finds showed that the waste is about 100 years old. For example, bottles of diphtheria vaccine were found which have a shelf life of 1933. Some objects, such as lice combs, were made of ebonite, also known as vulcanite. This is an early type of plastic. Only after World War II were plastics widely produced. Hospitals today cannot do without that (disposable) plastic and are one of its biggest consumers. One operation now sometimes results in as much as 27 kilograms of waste.

Illegal dumping
The Merenwijk has been a residential area since the 1970s, but back in the day at the time of the dump, this area was polder and far enough from the city to secretly dump your waste. More often, the AZL was in the news regarding garbage dumping. In the 1970s and 1980s, newspapers wrote about the disappearance of circa 11 000 barrels of contaminated waste. It had never arrived at the incinerator. The company responsible for the disposal, transport company Kemp, allegedly "disposed of" the waste such as hypodermic needles and skin remnants. Simon Kemp, was also referred to in the media as the "godfather of the environmental mafia," and at the time was even titled: "the greatest villain of the Netherlands. In the late 1980s, 150 000 dumped barrels of waste were found in the Coupé polder in Alphen aan den Rijn, including hospital waste from Leiden.

As a result of our findings, the municipality of Teylingen was informed. Fences were placed and a soil survey was conducted. According to them, there is only construction debris present and nothing related to the hospital. We think otherwise.