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Spolana wants to use toxic mercury in chlorine production for another six years

Mělník - 16 October 2012

Spolana Neratovice has made a request for extending the life of the outdated technology that uses considerable amount of mercury. Despite the fact that Spolana should have applied for a planning permission for a new membrane technology (1) plant for chlorine production till the end of August 2012 no such application has been submitted. According to the former agreement Spolana should have opened this new plant by the end of 2014. Instead of this, toxic mercury will be used in chlorine production for another six years, which means until 2020. Even after more than 50 years, the surroundings of Neratovice won't be free of hazardous toxic metal emissions (2).

“Every year, more than 100 kg of mercury from Spolana contaminates water and air. Further hundreds of kilograms of this toxic metal are passed by Spolana into waste and an unknown amount of mercury is being stored on its dump site near the river Elbe, where the chemical plant is located. Anwil, the Polish owner of Spolana, has decided to burden our environment by all these risks for six more years. However, Anwil has already stopped using toxic mercury for production of chlorine in its home plant. We strictly disagree with this approach. Two years ago, we notified the authorities that exactly these steps are going to be taken by the owners of Spolana,” summarizes Arnika's chairman Jindřich Petrlík the situation. Arnika has sent a clearly disapproving statement to the Office of the Central Bohemia Region, which is going to decide about the request of Spolana Neratovice for change of the integrated permit.

Read the whole statement of the Arnika Association >>149.52 KB
The reasons Spolana gave for its request to postpone replacing mercury with the membrane technology were of economical character. ‘Considering the economic problems have remained since 2009, such reaction three years later is startling. In our opinion, the operator doesn't intend to maintain the integrated permit from 2007 anymore. Otherwise it's hard to find another explanation, why the investment of more than 90 million CZK (3) didn't go to the conversion of technology,’ states Arnika its doubts concerning Spolana's arguments. Moreover, in a long-term point of view the membrane technology is more cost-saving, because it's less energetically expensive. The spokesman of Arnika Vratislav Vozník adds: ”From this point of view we don't understand the chosen policy to prolong the life of a technology, which is more expensive to run and which burdens the environment much more, and so, indirectly, the state treasury.“
Apart from the mercury, the prolonged operation of amalgam electrolysis pollutes the environment with hazardous dioxins too (4). „The dioxins are created while emptying waste from chlorine production which uses mercury. This was proved by an analysis, which we induced Spolana to do. If mercury wasn't used, we wouldn't need to get it back from the waste at all,” explained Petrlík. Arnika therefore officially asked the Office of the Central Bohemia Region, that Spolana would still be under obligation to monitor dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants in waste.
“In the surroundings of Spolana, and above all in the fish from the Elbe, higher mercury concentrations (5) are repeatedly being measured. Even bark of trees is contaminated (6). Furthermore a study ordered by Spolana itself shows, that specific mercury emissions both to the water and to the atmosphere have been increasing during the last years (7),” commented Petrlík on the effect of the chlorine production in the chemical plant on the surrounding environment.
The case of the chemical plant in Neratovice, which is the largest plant for production of lye, chlorine and its products in our country, has had Arnika's attention for a long time – as a part of our programme Toxics and Waste. Spolana Neratovice often finds itself on the list of the largest polluters, which is put together by experts from Arnika and which is based on data from the Integrated Register of Pollution. One of the reasons is often the mercury emissions to the air and surface waters and passed on in waste.
The integrated permit was given to Spolana by the Office of the Central Bohemia Region in 2007. According to that decision, the chemical plant should shut down the amalgam technology, which is used in chlorine production, until the end of 2014. As far as the proceedings about the integrated permit are concerned, the Arnika Association wasn't able to enforce 2010 as deadline for mercury replacement in the Neratovice plant, but we were able to include a precise timetable of individual steps for shutting down amalgam electrolysis into the conditions.

Notes for editors:
(1) Detailed information concerning different technologies of chlorine production and their effects can be found in the Methods of mercury production >>. Read also further information on the case of Spolana Neratovice >>
(2) According to data from the Integrated Register of Pollution (“Integrovaný registr znečišťování”) it was altogether 105.2 kg in 2011 and even 111.7 kg in 2010 (see http://www.irz.cz).
(3) see p. 13, the study of Tachem attached to the request for change of the integrated permit: „In the period 2007 – 2011 a total amount of 91,6 million CZK was spent on ecologization of mercury electrolysis.“
(4) The dioxins include two types of substances: polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDDs and PCDFs). Altogether they are 210 substances, the 17 most dangerous ones are monitored due to their effects on human health. These materials are hazardous even in trace concentrations. In the environment their levels are measured in picograms (10-12 g) and since individual dioxins have different toxicity, the measured levels are converted to toxic equivalent (TEQ). These substances are regulated by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. According to this convention, the signatory countries, and the Czech Republic is one of them, should constantly try to reduce the dioxin emissions in the environment, including their presence in waste. More about dioxins >>

(5) In 2008 it was the fish from Obříství under Spolana, that contained the highest mercury concentration from all samples taken in the whole Czech Republic >>
(6) See Suchara, I., Sucharova, J. 2008: Mercury distribution around the Spolana chlor-alkali plant (central Bohemia, Czech Republic) after a catastrophic flood, as revealed by bio-indicators. Environmental Pollution 151 (2008), 352 - 361. From the above mentioned article comes also the following picture showing increased mercury concentration in oak bark near Spolana:

Spolana chemical works

 

(7) The following graphs come from the study made by Techem, which is attached to the Spolana Neratovice's request for change of the integrated permit. They show, de facto, the increasing burden upon the environment caused by mercury.

The trend of specific mercury emissions to the Elbe from 2007 to 2011 (from the study of Techem):

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Spokesman: Vratislav Vozník, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel. 222 781 471, 606 727 942