Spolana has tripled its usage of mercury, says Arnika´s study

26.4.2007 - Mělník

Each additional year of running amalgam electrolysis in Spolana Neratovice burdens environment with mercury in quantity from at least 0,5 to 1,5 metric tonne, according to a comprehensive study elaborated by Arnika Association as a material for hearing on issuing new IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention Control) permit for operation of the amalgam electrolysis in Spolana which was announced by the Central Czech Regional Office for 7 May 2007. „We will try at the negotiations to push through termination of chlorine production by amalgam electrolysis by the end of 2010 – which is a term proposed for the whole EU, and, compared to our initial demand it is kind of a compromise,“ said Martina Stávková, head of Arnika´s campaign „Stop the danger from Spolana“ at a press conference in town Mělník.

„There are lower emissions of mercury in the air but, on contrary, usage of mercury within chlorine production in Spolana is growing – it tripled between 2003 and 2005 and quantity of this substance in wastes increased too. Its storage on toxic waste landfill in the area of chemical plant Spolana only enlarges problem which will have to be solved in a couple of tens of years by our descendants. In this way new environmental burdens appear,“ states one of conclusions in the study.

Spolana plans to phase out the mercury in chlorine production by the end of 2015. „We do not see any reason for extending the use of this toxic metal by several years longer than necessary. Spolana must anyway invest in technological changes. Within five years of operation of the amalgam electrolysis, some useless 2,5 – 8 tons of mercury accumulate and will have to be eliminated, otherwise it will contribute to overall environmental pollution,“ Arnika´s chairman Jindřich Petrlík explained the association´s position supported by the conclusions of the study.

The only minor part of chlorine is nowadays produced by amalgam electrolysis though in 2005 48% of chlorine had been still produced in this way in Europe. There are countries in Europe using exclusively more environmentally friendly ways of chlorine production – best available technologies (BAT) – these are membrane and diaphragm methods used in Portugal, Austria, Ireland, Norway, and Slovenia. The majority owner of Spolana, Polish company Anwil, also uses diaphragm technology. Substitution amalgam electrolysis by the membrane technology would be the most suitable for Spolana. „We do not understand why Spolana wants to wait with introducing this technology as late as at the end of 2015 if it has already obliged to work out a study on a switch over to it by mid-2008,“ Petrlík commented on a dilatory approach of Spolana´s management.

Arnika also made measurement of mercury concentrations in the air in 2006  and found high levels in the surroundings of Spolana Neratovice. High concentrations of mercury are being found also in fish caught in the river Labe (Elbe).

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