Home IPEN CEE Hot Spots Rubik - Albania Contamination

eu-flagDuring the productive years of the plant, byproducts from the processing of copper ore were discharged into the river (which turned green due to copper sulphate). Also sulfuric acid mist and dioxides were released into the atmosphere. What had been a major source of air pollution and groundwater contamination is today a quiet facility. According to management, however, the impacts of the plant's earlier SO2 emissions and acidic wastewater discharges are still reflected in the environment surrounding the former copper plant.

In total, some 13 000m2 of the processing area of the plant were found to be contaminated with copper compounds with leachability above EC Decision 1003/33/EC acceptance criteria for materials deposited in a landfill for hazardous waste. At least 100.000 m3 of hazardous waste material/slag are deposited in the processing area.

UNEP soil sampling in September 2000 found that disposed slag contains significant amount of copper (1,696mg/kg), chromium (492 mg/kg) and lead (99 mg/kg). Heavy metals have been washed out from the slag to groundwater by acid rainwater occurring when sulphuric dioxide is emitted by ore factories. Because of this fact, the water in the area of the plant contains significant amount of copper (22,4 mg/l), chromium (0,04 mg/l) and cadmium (0,012 mg/l) .

Soil sample of mine slag (UNEP sampling 22th September 2000
Heavy metals As Sb Cr Cu Pb Cd
mg/kg <10 <10 492 1,696 99 <10

Water sample of acidic extract from slag – water with sulphuric acid pH=3 (UNEP sampling 22th September 2000
Heavy metals As Sb Cr Cu Pb Cd
mg/kg <0,02 <0,02 0,04 22,46 <0,02 0,012

Given the lack of drainage system together with geological and hydrological characteristics of the plant area, contaminated groundwater can travel rapidly downstream within the aquifer, or directly into the river. However, there is no evidence of contamination of river water arising from the process area.

Although tests haven’t been done yet, given the fact, that copper ore melting and metal-related industries with high temperature processes are considered to be significant sources of dioxin pollution, the area of the factory may be also contaminated by dioxins.