PRAGUE – The amount of discharged carcinogenic, mutagenic, and reprotoxic substances (substances endangering reproduction) has increased significantly year-on-year. Emissions of greenhouse gases and mercury have also increased, with coal-fired power plants still the most significant contributors. Of these, Počerady and Ledvice are the biggest polluters. The Ledvice power plant is also the main plant behind the increase in mercury emissions into the air. Spolana Neratovice has further increased the amount of carcinogenic substances emitted. However, the Prachovice cement plant  is also behind the increase in the release of substances harmful to human health. It is also the year's surprise, as it reported almost eight tonnes of carcinogenic benzene released into the air for the first time. The good news is the lower amount of substances hazardous to aquatic organisms released and the reduction of acid precipitation gases, dust particles, and dioxins reported to the IRZ  for the whole country.
People can find out about pollution in their neighbourhood on the website www.znecistovatele.cz.
The complete rankings are attached to this press release.
“Although the increase in emissions of substances harmful to human health was mainly due to changes in the reporting of two plants, Spolana Neratovice and Cemex Prachovice, the increase in greenhouse gases is probably due to an increase in electricity production after the outage caused by the coronavirus measures. If we want to reduce this burden, we need to accelerate the transformation of the energy sector,” comments Jindřich Petrlík, head of the Toxic Substances and Waste Programme at Arnika, on the main year-on-year changes in reported emissions.
The top positions in the polluters' rankings for 2021 are occupied mainly by plants from the Ústí nad Labem, Moravian-Silesian, and Pardubice regions. Liberty Ostrava a.s. appeared most often in the rankings, followed by the power plants at Prunéřov, Počerady, Chvaletice, Tušimice, and Ledvice. Spolana Neratovice has increased its emissions of carcinogenic vinyl chloride into the air enormously, by almost seven and a half tons per year.
“Because of technological changes, the industry is emitting a whole range of new pollutants that are not monitored at all, such as perfluorinated substances  or brominated dioxins . The list of substances monitored and reported to the IRZ is twenty years old and needs to be revised and expanded. That is why we also proposed the addition and modification of the register a year ago in the call for poison-free rivers, and we are pleased that the Ministry of the Environment has already commissioned a study on the reporting of poly- and perfluorinated substances and on the revision of the reporting thresholds for cyanides,” adds Jindřich Petrlík.
Selected substances with high toxicity
Coal-fired power plants account for eight of the top ten sources of mercury releases into the air (ranked 1-7 and 10). The Ledvice and Počerady power plants rank first and second, respectively. Outside power plants, the chemical company Unipetrol and the Liberty Ostrava steel plant ranked 8th and 9th.
Jiří Koželouh, energy expert of the DUHA Movement, added: “The ranking of the largest sources of mercury leakage into the air shows how important it is to set emissions limits and protect people's health and not to grant broad exemptions from them. If the Počerady, Ledvice, and Chvaletice power plants had not received these exemptions and had complied with the new limits from August, pollution would have been 25% lower. This year, emissions would have halved even if coal-fired power generation had been significantly higher because of the gas crisis. Moreover, suppose solar and wind generation had been developed over the past ten years to the extent that the Czech Republic has the capacity. In that case, mercury emissions from these three plants could have been as low as 25% last year thanks to lower production. Moreover, almost the same amount of clean electricity would have been produced as Czech households need.”
Eliška Beranová, a lawyer with Frank Bold, explains the legal situation . “Specifically, in the case of the mercury exemption for the Chvaletice power plant, the administrative court issued a decision on suspensive effect in June of this year, so that the power plant operator does not have a valid mercury exemption, at least until the ruling in the case. However, the Regional Authority of the Pardubice Region has not yet taken the necessary legal steps to ensure that the operator begins to comply with the normal (non-exempt) emission limit. Therefore, the illegal pollution of the environment by the power plant continues even now.”
In addition to mercury emissions into the air, it is worth noting that Spolana Neratovice delivered over 75 tonnes of mercury in waste last year, the second highest value since 2004 after the record set in 2020 (86 tonnes). The amount is so enormous that the largest power plants in the Czech Republic, which follow it, often handed over ‘just’ hundreds of kilograms of mercury in waste. Amalgam electrolysis for chlorine production, the largest source of mercury at Spolana, was discontinued in 2017, but the company was still disposing of mercury-containing waste from this production last year.
Emissions of pollutants into the air
Seven of the top ten sources of greenhouse gases are coal-fired power plants. The Počerady power plant ranks first and the Ledvice power plant second. Apart from power plants, the Liberty smelter, the Unipetrol chemical plant belonging to the Orlen group, and Třinecké železárny are also in the top ten. The Ledvice and Chvaletice power plants increased their greenhouse gas emissions yearly.
Total formaldehyde emissions are similar to those in 2020, with the largest share coming from wood processing companies, led by KRONOSPAN CR, spol. s. r. o. Alongside wood-processing companies, however, HP-Pelzer Žatec, which produces acoustic insulation for cars, also increased its formaldehyde emissions sevenfold compared to 2020. The Lukavec Wood Processing Cooperative also increased its formaldehyde emissions by more than two tonnes year-on-year.
Dust emissions in the Czech Republic have been steadily decreasing, but not for all individual companies. The record holder in this category is Liberty Ostrava a.s., which increased dust emissions by more than half year-on-year and thus became the largest polluter in this category again after several years. This is also because, unlike the Czech Republic as a whole, there has been an increase in reported dust emissions from the Moravian-Silesian Region.
The Cemex Czech Republic s.r.o. cement plant in Prachovice is the record holder for the increase in emissions of reprotoxic substances. It was caused by the first ever report of benzene emissions, of which it released almost eight tonnes into the air. “We will try to find out,” said Nikola Jelínek from Arnika.
Arnika has been compiling the rankings for eighteen years, on the basis of publicly available data in the Integrated Pollution Register maintained by the Ministry of the Environment. By law, facilities report leaks and transfers of hazardous substances themselves. For the reporting year 2021, a total of 1,245 plants provided data, which is 12 less than in 2020.
“The project is being supported by the Open Society Fund Prague from the Active Citizens Fund. The programme promotes citizens’ active participation in public life and decision making and builds the capacities of civil society organizations. The Active Citizens Fund is financed from the EEA and Norway Grants.”
 Read more about the Prachovice cement plant case here: https://arnika.org/odpady/nase-temata/spalovani-odpadu/spalovny-v-ceske-republice/cementarna-prachovice
 The Integrated Pollution Register (IPR) provides detailed information on the use and discharge of hazardous substances into the environment. It provides a single place to collect data on how much of these substances is discharged annually by a particular industrial or agricultural operation into the air, water, and soil, and what substances are passed on in waste and wastewater.
 Perfluorinated compounds PFOA: http://www.arnika.org/perfluorooktanova-kyselina-pfoa and PFOS: http://www.arnika.org/perfluorooktansulfonat-pfos
 Brominated dioxins: http://www.arnika.org/bromovane-dioxiny
 You can learn more about the issue of exemptions from emission limits here: https://frankbold.org/zpravodaj/kategorie/aktualne/vyroci-novych-emisnich-limitu-5-nejzajimavejsich-zjisteni-o-prvnim-roce-provozu-uhelnych-elektraren