Carcinogenic Powder Leaks at Tesla's Giga Gruenheide, Emergency Workers Worried

Giga Gruenheide 9 photos
Photo: Tesla
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Tesla faced fierce resistance from Grünheide residents when building its factory in Germany. The locals said the EV plant would deplete precious water supplies in the region and could contaminate them. A leak in April seemed to confirm their concerns, but it got worse on June 27 when a carcinogenic powder escaped from containers close to the factory.
According to Märkische Oderzeitung (, logistic workers and firefighters contacted the German newspaper to report what had happened. They were the first people to deal with the powder leak, and the EV maker did not tell them what they were handling at first. It was a lithium-cobalt compound with a hazard class 3. According to the European Chemicals Agency, it means they are health hazards.

The leak happened in a freight transport center in Freienbrink, just a few hundred meters away from Tesla’s factory. That’s where the EV maker stores goods and raw materials for car production, but the powder was not supposed to be there. It is used to produce cathodes for cells, something Tesla initially planned to make in Grünheide and eventually postponed. It moved battery manufacturing machinery from the German plant to Texas in October. Apparently, it forgot to move the raw materials it had already ordered for Giga Grünheide.

The factory fire brigade found the powder on the ground at 2:10 PM on June 27. The first report was made by phone, but the person who announced the leak did not know what the black powder was. The markings on the container were not recognizable.

The workers who contacted said the fire brigade leadership downplayed the danger and tried to hide what they were dealing with. After “extended and longer research,” another Tesla employee delivered a data sheet that told them it was a carcinogenic powder, but three workers had already touched it. The area was closed, and the people who handled the powder were only told to wash their hands.

The initial procedure to remove the dangerous substance was to shovel it into hazardous substance containers. As the power was extremely fine, the extraction method was changed to a vacuum cleaner, but it also did not do the trick. The workers then tried using binders with water to remove the carcinogenic dust. It also did not work, so they requested a street cleaning machine from Fürstenwalde. There is no information on whether the device was decontaminated afterward or not.

A truck trailer also had the material and also presented three damaged containers. The powder was removed with the help of a special vacuum cleaner. Eleven undamaged containers and the three defective ones were removed from the trailer. verified the documents filed by Tesla to apply for authorizations for its battery factory. They state that events such as this one would be unlikely even in unusual circumstances. They also say that “there is a safe transport chain with trucks that store the powder in airtight containers and then dock it into steel silos.” None of that happened with the material that leaked.

Tesla did not answer requests for comments on what happened, but the head of the environmental department of the Oder-Spree district tried to explain the situation. RBB talked to Sascha Gehm, who stated that the powder “was wrongly delivered to Grünheide and was therefore not sufficiently marked as a hazardous substance.” The Brandenburg Ministry of the Environment said the location did not need an environmental permit. Nobody knows what Tesla stores in the freight transport center.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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