Crisis Expert Team Environment and Drinking Water
Better coordination during environmental crises
In July 2014, the Crisis Expert Team (CET) Environment and Drinking Water is established, with KWR as a member. The objective is to improve the streamlining of advice in the event of environmental or drinking water disasters. In the second half of the year the CET swings into action.
The genesis of the establishment of a new national organisation were the recommendations made in the “Eenheid in verscheidenheid” (Unity in Diversity) report, which was issued under the auspices of the Veiligheidsberaad (Safety Consultative Body) and the Ministry of Security and Justice. The experience of the large fire at the industrial park at Moerdijk in January 2011, but also other incidents, including the Q fever, called for better collaboration between governments in supraregional disasters and crises, with the goal of improving information sharing.
The structure of the national advice networks has been simplified: content experts from knowledge institutes now work together in a Crisis Expert Team in the event of an (imminent) crisis. This means that the expert advice will not be influenced by policy considerations. The new Crisis Expert Team works along a butterfly model: on the clients’ side, a director collects all the questions that may arise. The director then discusses them with the chairperson of the CET. The chairperson then coordinates the advice from ten different entities, which together make up the team. KWR provides advice on water quality, water technology and the health risks to drinking water production. KWR researchers Leo Puijker and Annemarie van Wezel function by turns as secretary and chairperson, respectively, of the CET. It is the chairperson who decides whether the CET convenes. “Not every little fire demands an integrated response. But if there is a threat to the environment or to water quality, the chairperson will activate the CET,” explains Puijker. “The partners will, upon request, provide their advice from their area of expertise. The chairperson and the secretary will then present the advice in integrated form.”
“Not every little fire demands an integrated response”
Different expert teams
An effective CET Environment and Drinking Water is not easy to achieve. As Puijker notes: “We work with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), RIKILT (for research into food safety and pesticides), the Netherlands Food and Product Safety Authority (NVWA), the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the Directorate for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat), the National Poison Information Centre (NVIC), DCMR Environmental Protection Agency and 15 municipalities.” There is also a CET being put together especially for radiation incidents, and a National Laboratory Network for Terrorism Incidents (LLN-ta), which is activated in the event of “deliberate and threatened disturbances to public order”. These bodies include a number of the same partners, in addition, for example, to TNO, the Customs Laboratory, the Central Veterinary Institute of Wageningen University and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI).”
Crisis Expert Team in action
In September 2014, the CET Environment and Drinking Water is convened, under the rotating chairmanship of RIVM, KWR and DCMR. A pharmaceutical company in Belgium which, among other products, makes vaccines, has, as a result of human error, discharged 45 litres of water infected with the polio virus into the small Laan river. The Laan is a tributary of the Dijle, which via the Rupel and the Schelde flows into the Westerschelde in the Netherlands. The CET Environment and Drinking Water, in collaboration with the RIVM’s Centre for Infectious Diseases, issues a recommendation to the effect that shellfish (oysters, cockles, mussels) self-collected in the eastern part of the Westerschelde should be well heated before consumption. The CET also states that any risk associated with swimming and the consumption of sea greens is negligible.
© 2017 KWR Watercycle Research Institute
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Annemarie van Wezel
Senior scientific researcher