Coal-fired power stations may be labelled the biggest polluters of 2022. In addition to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and gases causing acid rains, they were also responsible for the highest amounts of heavy metals released into the air, including mercury. For example, the Chvaletice power station released more than double amount of arsenic and by 70 % higher amount of mercury into the air in comparison with the previous year, and it was the biggest source of these two substances in the Czech Republic. The good news is that the total amount of the majority of harmful substances released into the environment decreased slightly, according to the data in the Integrated Pollution Register, however, the bad news is that it stayed at a higher level than in the reporting year 2020.
More information on pollution in your neighbourhood you may find at www.znecistovatele.cz.
The full lists of polluters are present in the annex to this press release.
„We could be happy about the decrease of toxic substance emissions reported by industrial facilities, however, it had to be much more considerable. To achieve this, state authorities would have to proceed much more strictly against sources of toxic substances, such as the Chvaletice power station,“ summed up Jindřich Petrlík, the project manager of the Toxic And Waste Programme of the Arnika Association.
The highest places in the lists of polluters in 2022 were dominated mostly by facilities from the Ústí nad Labem Region, the Pardubice Region, the Central Bohemian Region and the Moravian-Silesian Region. The Chvaletice power station may be labelled the most significant polluter, however, Spolana Neratovice and the Počerady power station stayed in the first places, too. Increase of dioxin amounts transferred in wastes reported by the municipal waste incinerator in Liberec is surprising. „This year's results showed, among other things, the growing significance of waste incinerators as sources of toxic substances, including also dioxins. This was the reason why we issued a summary study on assessment of impacts of waste incinerators on the environment and human health,“ emphasized Sarah Ožanová, who manages projects focusing on the waste management issues in the Arnika Association.
“The industry also releases a whole number of pollutants that are not monitored at all, for example, poly- and perfluorinated substances, or PFAS , and brominated dioxins . The list of substances that are monitored and reported into the IPR is twenty years old and it is necessary to review and widen it . Because of that, we welcome that just the above-mentioned PFAS, that may be significant polluters of water, will be added into it, hopefully soon, and that the reporting threshold for cyanides in wastes will be made stricter, ” added Jindřich Petrlík.
Selected Substances Showing High Toxicity
Coal-fired power stations and heating plants represent nine of the ten biggest sources of mercury releases into the air (in the 1st - 9th places). The Chvaletice power station is in the first place, and it is followed by the Počerady power station (both Sev.En Energy), and the Prunéřov and Ledvice power stations (both ČEZ). Moreover, the Chvaletice power station increased mercury emissions by 70 %, in comparison with the previous year. If the four biggest polluters met, in 2022, the emission limit valid since August 2021, they would release by 60 % less of this toxic substance. The heating plant of Plzeňská teplárenská placed fifth. The power station Tušimice, owned by ČEZ, placed sixth. Two blocks of this power station met the limit in 2022 already, and the other two met it almost, and, thanks to that, the power station reduced its mercury emissions by 62 %, in comparison with 2021. Apart from power stations, the metallurgical plant Liberty Ostrava was in the tenth place.
Jiří Koželouh, the energy expert of Hnutí DUHA, says concerning the mercury emissions: “Nine of the ten biggest sources of toxic mercury releases into the air are coal-fired power stations. Similarly as in the case of several others harmful substances, the Chvaletice power station from the Sev.En Energy group of the billionaire Pavel Tykač was in the first place. In comparison with the previous year, it released by 70 % more of this toxic substance. It becomes obvious that the proclaimed environmental improvements of this power station were nothing more than false advertising. The Czech electricity export in 2022 was three-times higher than the production of the Chvaletice power station, and, thus, the excessively polluting power station is not necessary for ensuring energy for the Czech consumers at all.”
In addition to mercury releases into the air, the fact is worthy of attention that Spolana Neratovice transferred almost 7 tons of mercury in wastes in the previous year. This amount was ten-times lower than in the previous year, but it indicated that the company was still dealing with the heritage of chlorine manufacturing using mercury, that had proceeded for several decades there. The amalgam electrolysis for chlorine manufacturing, the biggest mercury source, had been finished in Spolana in 2017, however, the company was obviously still getting rid of waste with mercury contents produced by this manufacturing in the past year.
The total amount of dioxins reported into the IPR increased in comparison with the previous year, in particular due to increases in several waste incinerators, specifically Termizo, a.s. Liberec , and three hazardous waste incinerators of the company Suez CZ, a.s. (nowadays Recovera from the Veolia group); . Although the metallurgical plant Třinecké železárny reduced the amount of dioxins in waste in comparison with the previous year, it stayed in the first place of the list. Dangerous practices of waste incinerators and metallurgical plants include efforts of so-called "recycling" of wastes with dioxin contents into various construction materials. A new Arnika's study, „Waste Incinerators and the Environment“, deals with this topic, too.
Emissions of Harmful Substances into the Air
Coal-fired power stations represent six of the ten biggest sources of greenhouse gases. The power station Počerady ended in the first place again, the power station Chvaletice was in the second place this year. In addition to power stations, the ten biggest sources included also the metallurgical plant Liberty, the chemical plant Unipetrol owned by the Orlen group, the metallurgical plant Třinecké železárny, and the paper mill Mondi Štětí. In comparison with the previous year, the highest increases of greenhouse gas emissions were reported by the power stations Počerady and Chvaletice, in the case of the Počerady power station by more than 700 thousand tons, and in the case of the Chvaletice power station by more than 1.1 million tons per year. However, the total amount of greenhouse gases reported into the IPR decreased slightly.
Lukáš Hrábek, the press agent of Greenpeace Czech Republic, says: “Unfortunately, reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are still negligible in the Czech Republic. New sources of clean energy have not been constructed practically, and the complete system of the outdated coal-fired power stations has remained in operation, wherein the two biggest of them - Chvaletice and Počerady - increased their production significantly in the previous year. It is strange that a number of state institutions - Správa železnic (railway infrastructure operator), Prague Castle Administration, Ministries of Labour and Social Affairs, Culture, and Defence - have selected operators of these coal-fired power stations as their electricity suppliers in the past weeks and months, and, thus, they directly support air pollution and worsening of the climate crisis. The state should lead by example in this area, however, it fails to do so.”
Dust emissions have been decreasing steadily in the Czech Republic, but not in all the individual facilities. The record holder in this area was still the metallurgical plant Liberty Ostrava a. s. Although it reduced dust emissions in comparison with the previous year, it stayed in the first place. The other significant sources of airborne dust emissions included the coal-fired power stations Počerady, Chvaletice, Prunéřov, Mělník, and Ledvice. Four of the most significant dust polluters were active in the Ústí nad Labem region. The power station Chvaletice increased dust emissions by more then 40 tons.
The facility Saint-Gobain Adfors CZ s. r. o. in Litomyšl showed the highest increase of the emissions in comparison with the previous year, the amount of formaldehyde it released into the air increased more than six-times in comparison with 2021. Higher emissions were reported only by Spolana Neratovice, which released almost the same amount of trichloroethylene, and a little lower amount of vinyl chloride, in comparison with the previous year. The cement works Cemex Prachovice , that showed the highest increase of the emissions in 2021, placed in the fifth place, it released by almost 2.5 tons less of benzene into the air than in the previous year. However, in addition to benzene, it newly released also a considerable amount of styrene (potential carcinogen).
Toxic Heavy Metals
This year, we newly made up also a list of the biggest polluters with heavy metals, specifically cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, and arsenic. The unrivalled leader of the list was the power station Chvaletice, that increased arsenic emissions by almost 3.5 tons in comparison with the previous year, what was an increase by a higher amount than the total emissions released by this power station in the previous year (2.1 tons). Due to heavy metal emissions released into water, four wastewater treatment plants were within the first ten places of this list, however, they couldnot compete with the four coal-fired power stations in the amounts of the released heavy metals. The first ten places of the list were completed by two metallurgical plants, Liberty Ostrava a.s. and Třinecké železárny a.s.
Arnika has made up the lists for nineteen years, on the basis of publicly available data in the Integrated Pollution Register kept by the Ministry of Environment. The facilities report releases and transfers of hazardous substances themselves, as required by the law.
 Perfluorinated substances PFOA: http://www.arnika.org/perfluorooktanova-kyselina-pfoa and PFOS: http://www.arnika.org/perfluorooktansulfonat-pfos
 Brominated dioxins: http://www.arnika.org/bromovane-dioxiny
 Substances in the IPR: http://www.arnika.org/latky-v-irz
 The case of the Liberec waste incinerator is described at: https://www.arnika.org/odpady/nase-temata/spalovani-odpadu/spalovny-v-ceske-republice/spalovna-odpadu-v-liberci
 Further information on hazardous waste incinerators of the company Recovery (formerly belonging to Suez CZ): https://www.arnika.org/odpady/nase-temata/spalovani-odpadu/spalovny-v-ceske-republice/spalovna-zlin-malenovice
 More information on the case of the cement works in Prachovice may be found at: https://arnika.org/odpady/nase-temata/spalovani-odpadu/spalovny-v-ceske-republice/cementarna-prachovice