Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment - FYROM
Chapter 3 - Principal industrial 'hot spots' investigated by the mission
During the week of 10-17 September 2000, a subgroup of the UNEP mission visited those industrial sites that appeared most likely to be 'hot spots' of environmental concern. The choice of sites was based on information gathered in advance, in close consultation with national experts. This chapter summarizes the main findings of the subgroup, whose full report is available online (http://balkans.unep.ch).
The mission's itinerary included facilities from each of the country's principal industrial sectors. Altogether, ten sites were visited. At each location, the UNEP team met with company representatives to discuss the plant's processes and environmental challenges. These meetings were followed by site inspections, during which UNEP experts took samples of water, soil, and air, as appropriate. Wherever possible, the team also met with local officials and stakeholders.
UNEP determined that five of the ten sites investigated should be considered environmental 'hot spots'. Each of these locations has serious problems that pose immediate risks to the environment and human health and require urgent remedial action. Corresponding recommendations are to be found in Chapter 7. Shortcomings in the handling and disposal of chemicals, contaminated sludge and other hazardous wastes reflect the general lack of appropriate facilities within FYR of Macedonia. It is clear that major investments are required to address these issues and that most, if not all, of the companies visited currently lack access to the technical and financial resources required.
Ferro-alloy plant at Jegunovce ('HEK Jugochrom')
Summary of key issues:
Established by the government of the former SFRY in 1952, the HEK Jugochrom plant at Jegunovce currently produces over 60,000 tons per year of ferroalloys (e.g., ferrochrome, ferrosilicon) using raw materials such as coal, quartz. ferrous iron. and chromium ore. The company employs some 2.000 workers.
In 1982, the plant began monitoring soil and groundwater. Data confirmed that surface water and the upper secondary aquifer had been contaminated by chromium. Nevertheless, the plant continued to produce chromium and chromium compounds until 1993. The UNEP mission confirmed that soil and groundwater in the Jegunovce area had been contaminated, largely as a result of improper handling of material containing chromium salts and the dumping of solid waste containing chromium into a landfill near the Vardar River.
UNEP further concluded that a plan initiated in 1990, to treat contaminated groundwater from the upper secondary aquifer, requires revision. Chromium is not being removed completely from the water, but rather converted from hexavalent chromium - Cr (VI), to trivalent chromium -Cr (III). The treated water is then discharged into the Bistrica River, which drains to the Vardar. Under certain chemical conditions, Cr (III) can be reconverted to Cr (V1), which is classified as a human carcinogen. According to the plant's management, concentrations of chromium in the groundwater have been reduced from about 50 mg/1 to about 12 mg/1 (in line with a UNEP sample, which showed a level of 12.2 mg/1). The plant's remediation goal is a concentration of 1.0 mg/1. By way of comparison, however, the target and intervention values for groundwater in The Netherlands are 0.001 mg/1 and 0.03 mg/1.
The plant uses an on-site landfill to dispose of chromium slag and other waste. The NEAP states that the landfill contains 466,000 tons of ferrochromium slag and 385,000 tons of chromate sediment. According to studies carried out with support from the EU's Phare Programme, pollution from the landfill is contaminating the Vardar River and posing a potential risk to Rasce Spring, the main source of water supply for metropolitan Skopje.
This facility is also a significant air polluter. The NEAP reports that, in the vicinity of the HEK Jugochrom plant, standards for total dust, black smoke and particle-borne chromium have been exceeded in past years. While current data were not made available to UNEP, the plant managers stated that no health effects on the local population or workers have been reported. The plant has three large electric furnaces and six smaller ones. An air quality monitoring station is situated near the plant. Dust concentrations in the flue gases were reported to average 3 - 6 g/m3. With gas flows averaging 312,000 m3 /hour from three of the four furnaces, annual dust emissions can be assumed to average 9,000 to 17,000 tons.
The plant managers presented a project proposal that would cool flue gases enough to enable the use of bag filters to collect dust emissions. If funded, the project would reduce emissions to 30 mg/m3 . An additional claimed benefit of the project is that it would reduce the energy consumption of the three largest furnaces by 25 %. The proposal does not address the emissions from the smaller furnaces.
Organic chemicals plant Skopje (OHIS A.D.)
Summary of key issues:
The Organic Chemical Industry of Skopje (OHIS A.D.) was founded in 1964. It manufactures a variety of chemical products, including plastics, detergents, polyacrylic fibers, plant protection agents, cosmetics, basic chemicals (e.g., chlorine, hydrochloric acid), pharmaceuticals, and process equipment. Several aspects of the OHIS A.D. facility raise strong environmental concerns. Approximately 10,000 tons of hazardous chlorinated organic chemicals (technical mixture of HCH isomers) have been stored on site in several concrete basins for the last 20 years. No detailed investigation or monitoring of the site has been carried out. Management assumes that the waste was stored in steel barrels and simply covered with soil.
One basin examined by the assessment team was approximately 100 meters long, 50 meters wide and several meters high. It was constructed without a drainage system for collecting percolating liquids and without a cover to prevent leaching. If barrels were used for storage, it is likely that they have corroded. The area around the basin smelled of chlorinated compounds. It is possible that these compounds contain persistent bioaccumulating substances. In addition, waste is likely to be contaminating the soil used to cover the storage site, and is probably leaching into the groundwater beneath and around the basins. There is a serious threat of major groundwater pollution.
The one million square meters industrial complex is situated in the former floodplain of the Vardar River and there is probably hydrological contact between the upper groundwater aquifer and the river. If so, contaminated groundwater from the OHIS A.D. compound is very likely to be polluting the Vardar.
The absence of a roper industrial and hazardous waste treatment facilit in FYR of Macedonia has led OHIS A.D. to store its waste on site. The stores are old and in bad condition, due mainly to poor construction and inadequate maintenance. Management was unable to specify the types and quantities of these wastes, but the overall volume is reported to be in excess of 160,000 m' per year. The lack of proper collection, treatment and safe disposal of these wastes is undoubtedly causing significant pollution of the environment.
Wastewater flows partly through closed concrete canals, but these are cracked and leaking waste to the soil and groundwater. The newest part of the plant is connected to a wastewater facility for treatment prior to discharge into the Vardar River. The treatment plant, however, is not functioning at present. Other parts of the plant, such as the now-closed chlorine-alkali-electrolysis "process, have never been connected to the treatment plant. This factory reportedly used two tons of mercury per year, causing mercury-laden wastewater to drain into the Vardar River. Management stated that eight tons of mercury remains stored at the plant. UNEP surface-water samples taken from a small wastewater canal close to the former chlorine- alkali-electrolysis plant did not show excessive levels of pollutants. Several phtalates were identified in the water sample but generally only at levels of about 0.5 mg/1. Mercury was analyzed in one water sample, giving a concentration of about 65 mg/1, some 10 times over the limit value for drinking water but below limit values for natural waters. The lead concentration (500 mg/kg) in one soil sample was above the threshold value for normal soil in many countries but not over the threshold values generally applied for soil at industrial sites.
The OHIS A.D. complex also generates air pollution, principally from an oil-fueled power plant. Data supplied by management suggest that the plant emits approximately 2,240 tons of sulfur dioxide, 315 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 15 tons of dust per year. The sulfur dioxide concentration in the flue gas, at 2,220 Mg/m3, exceeds the applicable 1,700 mg/m3 emission standard. An acrylic fiber plant within the complex is an additional source of concern regarding emissions.
Lead and zinc smelter Veles ('MHK Zletovo')
Summary of key issues:
Established in 1973, MHK Zletovo is a lead and zinc smelter employing 1,100 workers. Each year it uses lead and zinc concentrates to produce 30,000 tons of lead, 60,000 tons of zinc and 250 tons of cadmium, as well as smaller quantities of silver, gold and copper dross and bismuth alloy. The process produces 100,000 tons per year of sulfuric acid as a by-product. The same company also owns and operates a nearby fertilizer plant.
The smelter emits into the atmosphere large quantities of sulfur dioxide, and dust bearing lead, zinc and cadmium. The air outside the factory smells heavily of sulfur dioxide an cause immediate respiratory reactions among team members. In addition, raw materials, including coke for the smelter's furnaces, are stored in an open field. Transportation of these materials and wind spread dust around virtually the whole of the plant's 15,000 m'.
The NEAP states that, as of 1985, the plant was emitting concentrations of lead, cadmium, and zinc in dust over 100 times greater than control limits. According to data provided by national and local experts, the smelter emitted approximately 11,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 2,000 tons of lead and 50 tons of cadmium in 1995. A 1999 study by the Veles Institute for Health Protection, however, found that total emissions were far larger than those originally estimated for 1995.
MHK Zletovo and the Republic Hydrometeorological Institute monitor air quality in the city of Veles. The factory is situated in a valley close to residential areas of the city, and wind directions tend to carry factory emissions toward Veles. The two existing monitoring stations, however, are poorly positioned and do not provide timely data that could be used to manage episodic risks to public health. With inadequate data, appropriate enforcement actions and public health protection measures are most often not available to local authorities.
According to recent studies, emissions are having a significant impact on the health of the population. Health effects are described in the study of Petrova and Ristova (1999) and reported in the NEAP (1997). Increasing morbidity, especially from respiratory diseases, and frequent occurrence of lung cancers and anemia, have been noted in the local population and among factory workers. Children are especially affected. Workers have been observed to have experienced blood in urine, suggesting possible kidney disease. They have also had elevated concentrations of lead and cadmium in blood relative to control populations.
Although the smelter is undoubtedly polluting the groundwater beneath it, the major source of soil and groundwater contamination is the disposal of more than 850,000 tons of solid waste containing heavy metals. This waste is deposited at a dump approximately one kilometer from the smelter. There has been no detailed investigation or monitoring of soil or groundwater contamination in the area, including private wells located downstream. Nevertheless, it is very likely that groundwater and nearby areas are being contaminated with heavy metals as a result of percolate from the dump. Due to the direction of groundwater flow, the private wells are probably being affected.
Wastewater containing sulfuric acid and other pollutants is also a source of serious concern. MHK has a treatment plant that was designed to treat 135 M3 Of effluent per hour. The plant, however, generates 1,500 m3/hour of wastewater. Analytical data from regularly monitored streams indicate that the effluent consistently exceeds maximum concentration levels for lead, zinc and cadmium. The wastewater is discharged into the Vardar River.
The NEAP reported that cadmium, lead and zinc levels were 10- 15 times higher in vegetables grown in Veles relative to control regions. As much as 4 to 10 times the acceptable levels for lead and cadmium were found in spinach and lettuce due to soil contamination.
Company management is participating in an initiative sponsored by UNDP and is working with the municipality of Veles, local authorities and other stakeholders in support of a Local Environment Action Plan (LEAP) for Veles. The plant has also received support from the EU's Phare Programme, as well as from The Netherlands, Czech Republic and elsewhere. A cleaner technologies training program is also working with plant management. According to management, investments in a new coal oven and new bag filters have improved emission levels. A proposal to reconstruct the smelter's wastewater treatment plant has been prepared but not financed.
Zinc and lead mine, Probistip ('Rudnici Zletovo')
Summary of key issues:
The Rudnici Zletovo mine in Probistip has existed since
prior to World War 11. Its 1,500 workers currently produce about 1,000
tons of zinc concentrate and 800 tons
There is no wastewater treatment at the plant. Approximately one million cubic meters per year of wastewater contaminated with heavy metals and cyanide is pumped from the concentration plant into the Koritnico and Kiselia Rivers without cleaning or neutralization. According to the company's observations and analyses, there is little life in the rivers and high levels of heavy metals have been found in fish and other biological samples.
The flotation process uses xanthates, cyanides, metal sulfates, pine oil and lime to produce lead and zinc concentrates. Solid waste from the process contains zinc, lead, cadmium and cyanide. The waste is deposited at two different sites. The first is an old hydro-tallings area built on top of the Kiselia River on the outskirts of Probistip. The second is a new hydro-tailings sedimentation basin and dam built in a valley close to Probistip. This valley also drains to the Kiselia River, which, in turn, flows into the Zletovska River, a tributary of the Vardar.
The company has not investigated or monitored likely soil and groundwater contamination in areas influenced by the mine, the concentration process, or the hydro-tailing disposal sites.
Substantial numbers of mine workers suffer from pulmonary diseases and other occupational health problems. Local citizens have complained to the plant management about the dust created by ore crushing.
Thermal power plant, Bitola ('REK Bitola')
Summary of key issues:
REK Bitola operates a 25-year old thermal power plant and an adjacent lignite mine. The power plant generates 75 % of FYR of Macedonia's annual electricity requirements and employs approximately 700 workers. The mine employs 1,400 workers and supplies the power plant with 6.5 million tons of fuel per year. The lignite is relatively low in sulfur (approximately 0.5 %) and produces 13-17 % ash.
The power plant's electrical precipitators (or dust filters) are old and do not work well. Similarly, its emission monitoring system only functions properly about half of the time. According to management, however, the plant's three units emitted 46,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 2,400 tons of fly ash to the atmosphere in 1999. Average sulfur dioxide emissions of 1,600-2,000 mg/ml are four to five times greater than the permissible limit of 400 mg/m3 . Average 'best case' dust emissions of 100 mg/m3 are double the permissible limit. The plant's smokestacks are 256 meters high, which should limit the plant's contribution to air pollution in its immediate vicinity.
The power plant produces 150 tons of fly ash and five tons of slag daily. The fly ash and slag contain silicate and heavy metals, including uranium compounds. The ash and slag travels by conveyor belt to a very large dump (97,630 m2 , receiving 1.5 million tons of waste per year) close to the plant. In cooperation with MEPP, the company has planted 100,000 acacia trees in the vicinity of the dump in an attempt to abate dust emissions. Estimates of fugitive dust emissions from the dump and the mine were not available.
The company monitors air quality at three sites located a few kilometers from the plant. The assessment team investigated a monitoring site in the village of Dedebalchi, where sulfur dioxide and black smoke are sampled on a daily basis. Dust is also measured, using non-standard equipment.
Adverse effects on the health of REK's workers have been documented. Management stated that 250 mineworkers and 150 plant staff have chronic workrelated illnesses. The pulmonary function status of people in villages less exposed to REK emissions have been observed to be better than among populations living nearer to the plant.
Heavy metals, including uranium compounds, from the fly ash dumpsite are probably contaminating soil and groundwater downstream of the dumpsite. The upper aquifer is believed to drain to a nearby river. Private wells along the river downstream of the plant provide local inhabitants with water for drinking and irrigation.
The plant does not have a wastewater treatment plant. Water required for industrial use is taken from an artificial lake and, after use, is passed through an oil separator and two neutralization basins. However, due to the oil separator's limited capacity, free phase oil is discharged to the neutralization basins and then into the river via an open canal. The discharge of untreated wastewater containing oil compounds and heavy metals poses a risk of soil, groundwater and drinking water contamination in the vicinity. This issue is not currently being investigated or monitored.
The UNEP mission noted that excess heat from the power
plant is currently being disposed of in cooling towers, but could be
harnessed to provide domestic heating to the nearby town of Bitola.
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Last update: 19 March, 2001