Jo (73) lives next to a smelly stream: ‘I used to swim here’

The water in the Zandleij near Cromvoirt is dirty and stinks. Earlier this year, people who were mowing the grass on the shore on a boat suddenly felt unwell, possibly due to the chemicals in the water, Omroep Brabant reported on Wednesday. 73-year-old Jo van Balkom has lived by the stream all his life: “I haven’t trusted it for years.”

Profile photo of Jan Waalen

De Dommel Water Board is investigating the cause of why the employees were not feeling well. But it is no secret that the water quality in the Zandleij leaves much to be desired.

The stream is full of waste water and it is not possible to filter out all medicine residues and chemicals. Local residents are therefore advised not to come into contact with the water, the same applies to animals. The bank has recently been mowed from the side, employees sit in a closed cabin.

“Swimming was part of the youth at that time.”

Jo van Balkom has an organic farm on the Zandleij and has lived by the stream all his life. A lot has changed in all these years. “We often used to go swimming in the Zandleij and catch eels. We just ate them, it was part of the youth from the neighborhood at that time,” he says.

He would no longer swim in the Zandleij, even without warning from the water board. The water is black-brown in color, smells terribly and there are few plants growing in the stream. “The time for swimming has been behind us for a while. I’m worried, I haven’t trusted it for years. And it certainly hasn’t gotten better lately.”

“More pain every year I’ve used the water.”

Van Balkom has not let his cows drink the water for a long time, they now get tap water. But the area around the stream is suffering a lot from drought, so he still irrigates the land with water from the stream. “I try to limit it, but sometimes you have no other choice. It costs me more toothache every year to use that water.”

This is partly because Van Balkom runs an organic company. It doesn’t feel good that he does that right next to such a polluted stream. “I switched to organic 27 years ago. Not to benefit financially, but out of concern for nature and the future of agriculture. It doesn’t feel good to have such a ditch running next to my company. to put it mildly.”

“We can’t sell this to the world.”

Jo himself has not yet become ill, even though the water practically ‘runs under his bed’. “But it probably won’t be healthy for us either.” According to the water board, the water from the Zandleij ultimately flows into larger rivers, where it mixes with other water. Van Balkom: “Wherever it ends up, those substances remain somewhere where they do not belong. We cannot sell this to the world that the community discharges such dirty water.”

The water board reports that the quality of the water has not deteriorated recently. It is also questionable whether the employees did not feel well because of the bad water, or because of something else. The investigation should be completed by the end of this year. In the meantime, the purification plant in Tilburg is being modernized.

According to Van Balkom, things could be done a little faster. “They are at least a little slow. I can’t imagine that they haven’t seen this coming for years. Hopefully the media attention will make things go a little faster now. This cannot continue.”

READ ALSO: Sick after mowing banks: water board warns about chemicals