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Grower gets chance to prove major damage to CHP was gutter cleaners' fault

A tomato grower will be allowed by the court to prove that water was used when cleaning gutters in violation of the order and that carelessness was involved, causing damage to a CHP plant. The water used allegedly ran into the plant's air outlet. Last month, the grower and the contractor faced each other before the District Court of The Hague. The court, when hearing the case in the first instance on 21 September, questioned the assertions made by both parties.

492 thousand euros
The grower, with several locations, claimed damages of over 492 thousand euros from the executor. Major damage occurred to the CHP plant at the time of the work in January 2021. A few minutes after the work was done, the plant went down due to a short circuit.

It is uncertain whether the damage was caused by an error by the party that cleaned the gutters. What is certain is that water was used. The grower has to prove that it was agreed that no water would be used when cleaning the two greenhouse gutters and that the implementers allowed water to run into the air outlet of the installation.

The CHP supplier concluded soon after the incident: "The water entered the ventilation shaft of the CHP plant after cleaning the greenhouse gutter. The ventilation shaft of the CHP plant is covered at the top by an overhanging hood. It is, therefore, not possible that weather conditions (e.g., rain) led to water entering the ventilation shaft of the CHP plant. It is likely that water entered the ventilation shaft through the underside of the protective cover during maintenance work."

'Water always used'
The works contractor claimed that "gutters are always cleaned with water, including at other grower's sites. For this, he referred to statements by three of his employees and to a video showing how - at another greenhouse - a gutter is filled with water and then swept clean.

The judge provisionally stated that the damage scenario outlined by the grower was "less obvious on the face of it." "Given the amount of water that ran into the CHP plant, the employees would have had to have kept the water hose close to or in the air outlet for a longer period of time."

However, the explanations given by the workers also raise questions for the court. For example, shortly after discovering the water damage, they repaired a hole in a window near the CHP installation without notifying the grower. They took a photo of the repair, but the judge wondered why no photo was taken of the hole.