The US electric car manufacturer Tesla has reported 26 environmental accidents at its factory in Grünheide near Berlin since it opened a year and a half ago. This emerges from information from the Brandenburg State Office for the Environment, which “Stern” reports on and which is also available to the German Press Agency.

These include spilled substances such as paint, diesel and fires. According to the State Environment Agency, the incidents are operational disruptions and not major incidents within the meaning of the Major Incident Ordinance. Part of the site lies in the water protection area. Tesla rejects concerns.

The car manufacturer admitted that there had been several incidents on the factory site during construction work and since commissioning. According to the company, none of the incidents were major incidents under the Federal Emissions Control Act, and none of the incidents caused environmental damage. If necessary, corrective measures were implemented.

Danger to drinking water

The head of ecosystems at the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Martin Pusch, spoke of a fundamentally high risk with regard to drinking water. “There is a high risk of impairment of the drinking water supply due to the low retention capacity of the subsoil,” Pusch told dpa.

When asked by “Stern”, Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel (Greens) admitted that problems had arisen on the factory premises, but saw no danger. When asked whether he could rule out that the groundwater under the factory was contaminated, he said, according to “Stern”: “I can rule it out. The monitoring is working.”The accidents include leaks of 15,000 liters of paint, 13 tons of aluminum and 50 and 150 liters of diesel. According to information from the State Environment Agency, paint and aluminum were disposed of professionally or properly. In the case of diesel, the floor was dug out in one case. The “Stern” also reported that after a fire in September 2020, up to 300 liters of extinguishing water seeped into the ground; 250 liters of diesel leaked in a gas station on site in May 2023. The State Environment Agency did not provide any information on this.

The accident in April 2022 in the paint shop with 15,000 liters of paint mixture was already known. At the time, the lower water authority of the Oder-Spree district classified the liquid as slightly hazardous to water and it had not reached the groundwater. The Strausberg-Erkner water association spoke of an incident.

Eight fires since March 2022

There have also been eight fires since March 2022. In one case, according to the State Environment Agency, a fire at an illegal waste site in September 2022 was caused by a shredded battery in a wooden transport box. Extinguishing water was collected and the affected unpaved area was dug up. A few days later, cardboard and wood caught fire there. Extinguishing water had seeped away, but the soil samples were unremarkable.

Tesla has been manufacturing electric cars in Grünheide since March 2022. Environmentalists and nature conservationists see danger because part of the factory is located in a water protection area. Tesla has dismissed concerns. According to the company’s latest information, around 11,000 employees work in the factory in Grünheide, producing around 250,000 vehicles per year. Tesla wants to expand the factory.