A Dutch foundation representing at least 1,400 people took the first steps Thursday toward a lawsuit against steel giant Tata, alleging it is responsible for pollution near Amsterdam that has caused illnesses for residents.
Tata Steel's massive plant at the mouth of the IJ river west of the capital has come under increasing fire from residents and health authorities, who accuse it of being the main source of contaminations in the air, soil and water.
"A bailiff delivered a notice of liability to the company" on Wednesday, the FrisseWind.nu foundation said.
"This liability claim is the first formal step in the mass damages claim announced earlier this year," it added in a statement.
In its letter, the foundation said it wanted to reach an agreement about compensation with Tata, whose parent group is based in India.
"We would like to receive confirmation within four weeks to date that you are reasonably prepared to discuss this with us," the letter said.
"Failing this, we will assume that there is no willingness on your part to enter into such consultations and we will be free to take legal action against you," added FrisseWind.nu, which means "Fresh Air Now" in Dutch.
Tata Steel could not immediately be reached for comment.
But the company told public broadcaster NOS it planned to study the letter in detail before commenting, adding that it had taken various measures to reduce emissions and nuisances from the plant.
The foundation's letter is the latest challenge for Tata Steel in the Netherlands, where it directly employs some 9,000 workers -- many who live nearby the site -- and is a major player in the Dutch economy.
The steel giant is already facing other legal claims and Dutch prosecutors in February last year opened a criminal probe into possible "intentional and unlawful" pollution.
Dutch health authorities in a report last year confirmed that Tata was the main source of so-called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) as air pollutants and metal pollution in the IJmuiden region.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are generated primarily during the incomplete burning of organic materials like coal, oil and gas, according the US Centres for Disease Control.
Longterm exposure could lead to various forms of cancer and other adverse health effects.
Dutch emission authorities have also identified the Tata Steel site as one of the largest emitters of CO2 in the country.