The Arnika association has recorded a significant year-on-year increase in the release of cancer-causing, mutagenic, and hormone-disrupting substances. There has also been an increase in the amount of substances toxic to aquatic organisms, including cyanide discharged into rivers. Spolana Neratovice dominates for the seventh time among the companies for release of toxic substances into the environment due to the discharge of carcinogens during the PVC production and other raw materials for the plastics production. Emissions of styrene and formaldehyde from industrial plants across the country have increased significantly. The biggest increase of these pollutants was recorded in MEA Metal Applications from Plzeň, by 12 tonnes. On the other hand, emissions of greenhouse gases and mercury, the main source of which are coal-fired power plants, decreased.
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Large industrial enterprises from the Moravian-Silesian, Central Bohemian, Ústí nad Labem, and Vysočina regions dominate among the biggest polluters in the Czech Republic.
“Due to technological changes, the industry is emitting a whole range of new pollutants, such as PFAS or brominated dioxins, which are not monitored at all. That is why we strongly call for an update of the legislation and an extension of the list of monitored substances,” adds Jindrich Petrlik from Arnika.
Selected substances with high toxicity
Spolana Neratovice, after completing the disposal of the amalgam electrolysis, transferred over 89 tonnes of mercury in waste, which was previously used to produce chlorine for PVC production. This was the second highest amount recorded in the 17-year history of the Integrated Pollution Register (IPR).
The main sources of mercury emissions in the air remain lignite power plants, especially the Počerady power plant. Annual mercury emissions from this power plant decreased slightly by about 10 kg (from 383 to 372.5 kg per year).
Dioxins in waste
Large amounts of dioxins in waste were transferred by metallurgical plants and waste incineration plants, with a year-on-year reduction of around eight per cent.
Třinecké železárny is in first place - although it has reduced the amount of dioxins in the waste they send by 25 g TEQ (8), it has been dominating this ranking for several years with high dioxin levels. The next biggest emitter of dioxins is the hazardous waste incinerator Suez Využití zdrojů, a.s. in Trmice and the Liberty smelter in Ostrava, which, however, emits some dioxins into the air but transfers more in waste. The entire ranking is dominated by waste incineration plants.
For several years in a row, industrial plants have been emitting up to ten times more dioxins in waste than the entire Czech Republic emits into air. It is very alarming that some companies even recycle waste with high concentrations of dioxins. For example, mixtures of ash from incinerators can end up in building materials. The Ministry of the Environment should monitor the fate of such waste.
Emissions of pollutants into water
Substances endangering aquatic organisms
The amount of hazardous substances to aquatic organisms discharged into water increased by about 2 tonnes last year. The main culprit is the increase in the amount of zinc and its compounds discharged from the wastewater treatment plants in Prague and Otrokovice, as well as heavy metals from the Liberty smelter in Ostrava.
Cyanide, which caused the accident on the Bečva River a year ago when it poisoned all living things along almost 40 km of the river (10), is also a major contributor to water pollution. The most cyanide last year was discharged by the wastewater treatment plant in Ostrava, which probably receives wastewater from local metallurgical plants. DEZA Valašské Meziříčí, the fourth largest water polluter of cyanide, discharged over 60 kg more cyanide into the Bečva River last year compared to 2019, an increase of about two-thirds. However, no one admitted to an accidental cyanide spill in the 2020 IPR report.
Arnika reacted to the accident on the Bečva River with the appeal Rivers without poisons, which was signed by almost 7,000 people. It only takes a few dozen kilograms of cyanide to poison a river. However, the reporting threshold for their transfer in waste is very high - 500 kg, which is why we are calling for its reduction in the call for poison-free rivers. The call also targets other shortcomings of the IPR in terms of protecting waters from toxic substances. Minister of the environment Brabec has already promised to tighten the IPR in response to the call, but no concrete steps have been taken yet.
Emissions of pollutants into the air
The steady decline in greenhouse gases and acid precipitation gases is encouraging. Their largest sources remain the North Bohemian lignite power plants and metallurgical plants in the Moravian-Silesian region.
The amount of greenhouse gases reported to the IPR has decreased by more than 10 million tonnes in the last year, from more than 63 to less than 53 million tonnes per year. For example, the Chvaletice power plant has significantly reduced its annual emissions.
Total styrene emissions reported to the IPR increased by just under 17 tonnes, or 15%. The most significant contributor to this increase was MEA Metals Applications' operations producing water tanks and drainage systems.
Operations in the top ten largest styrene emitters are responsible for 56% of styrene emissions. The level of regulation of emissions of this substance is generally low. For 2020, 55 industrial plants reported it to the IPR, two more than in 2019.
“Sources of styrene emissions have been proving to be very problematic for a long time. The solution is simple. By including afterburner units in the production process, styrene emissions would be reduced to about one tenth,” says Milan Havel from Arnika.
The amount of cancer-causing and mutagenic formaldehyde increased year-on-year by around 7.5 tonnes to more than 25.5 tonnes in 2020. The Rockwool plant in Bohumín, for example, reported about 3 tonnes more formaldehyde for 2020.
Arnika has been compiling the rankings for seventeen years, based on publicly available data in the Integrated Pollution Register (IPR) maintained by the Ministry of the Environment. By law, facilities report releases and transfers of hazardous substances themselves. For the reporting year 2020, a total of 1,257 plants provided data, which is 116 less than in 2019.