Czech bream wins – at least in the concentration of mercury in blood. And it lives in the Elbe under Spolana

23.11.2012 - MĚLNÍK


MĚLNÍK – In two of eight samples of carp bream the maximum permitted concentration of mercury in fish in the European Union was exceeded. One of them even takes first place in the chart of analyzed fish from twenty countries of the world. In comparison with 2008 there is also an increase of the average concentration of mercury in samples taken in the same sector of the Elbe. Arnika Association (1) considers these findings alarming, especially with regard to efforts of Spolana to delay the initial assigned date (2) to stop with the production of chlorine using mercury.

 “The concentration of mercury exceeds European limits only in two samples, but it is necessary to add that these limits are set up more freely than they are considered to be safe for example in the USA. Seven of eight breams caught under Spolana would exceed this safe boundary in this year, while in 2008 this was the case in three samples of five, “the director of the Toxics and Waste Programme Jindřich Petrlík from Arnika association specifies the information gained from the new research.  “The effort of Spolana to extend the use of mercury in the chlorine production by six years is in this light absurd,” Petrlík adds.

Arnika will insist during the negotiation of the new integrated permission for the chlorine production in Spolana on keeping the initial date according to which the chlorine production using mercury in Neratovice is supposed to end at the end of 2014. More ecological, so called diaphragm electrolysis (3) is supposed to replace it. “The maximum possible compromise is the end of 2015; any other option is not acceptable considering the protection of the environment against the leakage of mercury. Over 100 kg of mercury leak away into the water and the air from Spolana per year. Spolana passes further hundreds of kilograms of toxic metal in waste and an unknown amount of it is being stored in Spolana’s junkyard not far from the Elbe, where the chemical plant is situated,” the press agent Vratislav Vozník gives reasons for the maximum possible compromise of Arnika.

In addition to the current chlorine production, the old amalgam electrolysis still to be cleaned is also the source of mercury contamination. “Geosan Company with the permission of Ministry of the Environment decided to delay a true solution by building a sort of sarcophagus. But this does not solve the old load at all, this just preserves it in place and shifts the responsibility to the future generations,” Petrlík reminds another possible source of problems in Spolana.

 Arnika monitors the concentration of mercury in fish from the Czech part of the Elbe within the frame of preparations of international IPEN network worldwide study (4), which aims at this issue in various countries of the world. The data are necessary in connection with preparations of the new global mercury convention. “Two-thirds of all analyses from twenty countries of the world have been done so far. In the bream from Spolana so far the highest concentration of mercury from 326 analyzed fish was detected, specifically 1.583 mg/kg,” Vozník specifies.

“In the neighbourhood of Spolana, especially in fish from the Elbe, high concentrations of mercury appear repeatedly (5). Even the bark of trees is contaminated (6). And the study that Spolana itself had ordered shows that specific emissions both in the water and in the air have been growing in recent years,” Petrlík repeated reasons of Arnika’s objections to the continuing chlorine production using mercury. In addition to mercury, the extension of amalgam electrolysis operation represents another load to the environment – the dangerous dioxins (7). The old amalgam electrolysis compound is also contaminated with them.



Notes for the editors:

 (1) Arnika has been dealing with the issue of chemical plant in Neratovice, which is the biggest plant in the Czech Republic producing lye, chlorine and other products made of chlorine, for a long time within the frame of its Toxics and Waste Programme. Spolana Neratovice often figures in charts of the greatest polluters, which are being processed by Arnika’s specialists on the basis of data from Integrated Pollution Register of the Environment. The reasons are that mercury emissions leaked in the air, in surface waters and passed on in waste.

(2) Integrated permission was granted to Spolana by the Office of the Central Bohemia Region in 2007. According to that decision, the chemical plant is supposed to end its operation of the amalgam technology used in chlorine production by the end of 2014. Within the frame of proceedings about integrated permission, Arnika Association did not manage to enforce 2010 as an ultimate date for substitution of mercury in Neratovice operation, but it enforced in the conditions a definite time schedule for individual steps to end the amalgam electrolysis operation.

(3) The details about various chlorine production technologies and their impacts are at and other information about Spolana Neratovice case is at

(4) More about the IPEN network (The International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network) at

(5) According to data in Integrated Pollution Register of the Environment, in 2011 the total emissions were 105.2 kg and in 2010 total emissions rose to 111.7 kg of mercury (see

(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.

(7) Dioxins originate during the burning of chlorine and mercury production waste. The analyses which Spolana had to get done in connection with formerly granted integrated permission proved it. If mercury had not been used, it would have not been necessary to retrieve it from waste. Dioxins include two groups of substances: polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD a PCDF). In total there are 210 substances, from which 17 most dangerous for human health are monitored. These substances are dangerous even in trace concentrations. In the environment their levels are measured in picograms (10-12 g) and because of varying toxicity of single dioxins the detected values are converted to toxic equivalents (TEQ). These substances are regulated by Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. According to this convention signatory countries along with the Czech Republic should try to decrease dioxin emissions to the environment permanently, including their presence in waste. More about dioxins at

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