Greenpeace and Arnika: Spolana Should Safeguard and Clean Up Entire Polluted Site

24.7.2002 - Neratovice
The environmental organisations Arnika and Greenpeace sent today the new Czech Minister for the Environment Libor Ambrozek and the director of the Czech Inspectorate for the Environment Petr Soukup the analysis results of the polluted site at the chemical plant Spolana in Neratovice, Czech Republic. Both environmental organisations expressed their discontent with the fact that Spolana only wants to decontaminate part of the polluted site. Greenpeace and Arnika therefore call on the Minister that he forces Spolana to prepare decontamination of the complete mercury polluted area and safeguard it against possible flooding in the mean time.

"Spolana plans to clean up only part of the pollution, put another part in a concrete sarcophagus and the rest of the mercury will stay where it is. A large area between the derelict amalgam electrolysis buildings and the bank of the River Elbe contains over 100.000 times more mercury than normally uncontaminated soil. Furthermore 19 of the 20 samples we took in that area contain more mercury than the industrial limit for decontamination," explained Dr. Mirslav Suta, Greenpeace toxic expert consultant (2, 3).

In spite of these facts, Spolana announced last May, that "decontamination of this area is not part of the project for sanitation of the old amalgam electrolysis buildings and surrounding areas". This is, according Spolana "because on the surface of this areas there is no danger for the environment" (4, 5).

"The disdainful attitude of Spolana to refuse to clean up the contaminated area does not surprise me. Arnika has already been warned about the absurdity of Spolana's ideas to conserve to largest part of the mercury in a concrete sarcophagus costing more than ten million Euro. This is nothing less than a toxic legacy for future generations," commented Dr. Jindrich Petrlik, head of the programme 'toxic substances and wastes' of the association Arnika. He added, that the Ministery of Evironment already refused the prepared documentation for the Environmental Impact Assessment for the sanitation of the mercury pollution because of its low quality (6).

Greenpeace drew the attention on the hundreds of tons of toxic mercury that pollute the bank of the Elbe on the 6th of May of this year. Under the banner "Save the Elbe from Spolana" they marked the 27 years old abandoned buildings at Spolana that were polluted during the production of chlorine. In the contaminated area, which is flooded by the Elbe on average every 20 years, activists set up warning signs: "Beware! Mercury contaminated!" and took samples of the contaminated soil (7).  

Internet:

Greenpeace: http://www.greenpeace.cz/agentorange/index_en.htm

Arnika: http://bezjedu.arnika.org/spolana [Czech]

NOTES FOR THE EDITOR:

(1) The mercury contamination at Spolana originates from former and present electrolysis units for the production of chlorine. The old production unit was closed in 1975, but Spolana still uses this inherent dangerous technology. According to expert studies made in commission of Spolana itself, there are at present around 250 tons of toxic mercury on the bank of the Elbe. This endangers the safety of the Elbe ecosystem and public health. Metallic mercury and even more dangerous organo-mercury substances not only contaminate some of the production buildings, but also thousands of cubic meters of soil on the Elbe bank.

(2) The largest concentration measured in the soil samples taken at Spolana was 37 grams of mercury per kilogram soil. Several times concentrations in the order of 1,5 to 3,6 g/kg were measured in the samples. Source: Ecochem a.s., Zkušební laborator akreditovaná CIA c. 1163, Protokol o zkoušce c. 6294/1/2002

(3) Methodological instructions from the department for ecological damages from the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic for the implementation of the Czech Government Decree no. 393 from 13 July 1994 on the principles of the further procedures of privatisation: http://plumbum.ceu.cz/ERA/RA [in Czech] The limit for decontamination of soil is 20 mg/kg, but the samples taken from Spolana show concentrations up to 37,000 mg/kg: http://plumbum.ceu.cz/ERA/RA/Lim_zemina.htm [Czech]

(4) Source: Press release Spolana a.s. from 27. 5. 2002


(5) Mercury is a toxic metal. People who are exposed to mercury for long-term suffer from weakness, headaches, lack of appetite, digestion problems and weight loss. Mercury can damage the nerve system to an extend that those afflicted get uncontrolled tremors starting in the eyelids, tongue, lips and fingers. They can suffer from a loss of memory and behavioural disturbances, incl. depression. Several studies indicated an enlarged chance on spontaneous abortion, premature birth and birth deformations like lower birth weight amongst women that work professionally with mercury.

(6) Spolana musí prepracovat dokumentaci o zamorení rtutí (Spolana has to rework its documentation on mercury pollution), Press release from Arnika, 11 April 2002.

(7) "Greenpeace took samples of mercury pollution in Spolana Neratovice, Czech Republic", Greenpeace Press Release 20/2002, 6 May 2002, http://www.greenpeace.cz/release/en/020506en.htm

  • Arnika: Toxics and Waste Programme

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