Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment - FYROM
Chapter 4 - Other industrial sites visited
This chapter includes information about the five additional industrial sites visited by UNEP . While these locations appeared to be of less immediate concern than the 'hot spots' identified in Chapter 3, each is nevertheless faced with significant environmental management problems. These require swift intervention if they are not to reach crisis point in the future.
Landfill site, Drisla, near Skopje
Drisla landfill was established in the mid-1990s for the disposal of municipal waste from Skopje. Located in a depression created by gravel extraction, the facility covers approximately 75 hectares. Its planned capacity is approximately 26 million cubic meters, only 4 % of which has so far been used.
UNEP experts concluded that the site is well managed and has the potential to serve as a model for future landfills in FYR of Macedonia. Nevertheless, plans to install an impermeable lining to prevent possible groundwater contamination have not yet been realized, and a partly constructed system for collection of gas has not yet started to work properly because the production of gas is still low.
Incoming waste is weighed at the landfill entrance, and a visual estimate is made of its composition. Industrial or hazardous waste is forbidden. A recently constructed medical waste incinerator is not being used because producers of medical waste are unwilling to pay incineration fees. Consequently, medical waste is mixedin with general waste. It is unclear how effective the current system is in ensuring that other forms of hazardous waste do not enter the site.
There are no up-to-date statistics on waste composition. In 1997, the NEAP reported that typical municipal wastes contain 25% ash and construction wastes, 24% paper, 20% food, 11 % plastic, 5 % glass and porcelain, 4% textiles and leather, 3 % metal and 8% miscellaneous waste. The proportions of organic and plastic waste seem to have increased considerably since that time, no doubt due to changing consumption patterns.
The landfill area consists of permeable sand and gravel deposits. No special construction measures, however, were taken to prevent possible percolation of leachate into the upper and lower aquifers. The upper aquifer drains to the river system and, downstream of the landfill, supplies water for drinking and irrigation. There are six monitoring wells within the site, and regular samples of river water are taken downstream. Four basic leachate parameters are monitored once a month, but the analyses do not cover hazardous, water-soluble organic and inorganic components.
During the UNEP mission, surface water samples (one taken from a pool beside the landfill, another from the Markovo River - a tributary of the Vardar - about 2.5 kilometers downstream of the site) were analyzed for hazardous organic and inorganic pollution. These samples showed organic compound contents of 10 mg/l, a level typical of organic waste in landfills. The level of organic compounds recorded in the Markovo River is a potential risk to human health in the area, though there are likely to be other sources of contamination in addition to Drisla landfill. For example, the city's former dump next to the Vardar River remains partly in use, and runoff from this site goes directly into the river.
Fertilizer factory, Veles ('MHK Zletovo')
The fertilizer plant uses the sulfuric acid from the MHK Zletovo smelter (see Chapter 3) and phosphate from Morocco to produce phosphoric acid and, in turn, mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) and NPK fertilizer. The plant is currently working at 50 % of capacity and producing about 60,000 tons of fertilizer per year.
UNEP experts found that the production process was inefficient. Careless handling of raw materials and products is causing severe dust problems in the vicinity of the plant. Some areas are covered by deposits of up to several centimeters. Data on air quality and the amounts of dust emitted were requested, but not received.
According to studies carried out with support from the EU's Phare Programme, the plant's wastewater loadings of phosphorus and nitrogen are equivalent to those that would be generated by population centers of 4.6 million and 0.4 million people, respectively. Some diffuse soil and groundwater contamination can be expected on and around the plant facilities due to the use of impure raw materials containing heavy metals.
For each ton of phosphate produced, 5.5 tons of gypsum waste is generated. A mixture of 20 % gypsum and 80 % acidic process water (pH 2 - 3) is pumped to a special landfill that currently holds five million tons of gypsum waste. This waste was formerly deposited in the bottom of the valley, and sludge used to float directly into the Vardar River. It is now being deposited in the upper part of the valley, thereby reducing the direct risk to the Vardar. However, wastewater from the sludge dewatering process continues to drain into the river, and sludge can still be flushed into the river in flood conditions.
Copper Mine, Radovis ('Buchim S.C.')
Buchim S.C. - Radovis, the only copper mine in FYR of Macedonia, has been operating since 1979. In 1999, it was 82 % Government owned and had approximately 800 employees. The mine produces about four million tons of ore per year and a similar quantity of tailings.
Concentration of copper, gold and silver is achieved through a flotation process using sodium- and potassium-alkyl-xanthates, sulfuric acid and a bacterium (Bacillus ferrooxidacae). Cyanides were formerly used in the flotation process, but this practice ceased 15 years ago.
Each year, the mine pumps more than 70,000 tons of solid waste containing heavy metals from the flotation process to a large dam in a nearby valley. Dust from the 30-hectare hydro-tailings dam blows toward the nearby village of Polnica. Because many of the mineworkers have joint ailments and silicosis due to dust inhalation, adverse health effects can also be expected among local citizens. In efforts to abate the dust, trees have been planted and a polymer has been applied to a fourhectare area. However, there is no regular air monitoring at present.
There are two sources of contaminated water discharges into the environment: the flotation plant and the sedimentation lake. Wastewater from the flotation plant, containing large amounts of copper, is released into a stream from which cattle drink. The discharge occurs at the rate of 10 liters per second. The bottom of the stream is covered with a bluish layer resembling malachite (copperhydroxycarbonate). There is no wastewater treatment facility at the plant, although there are plans to construct one when resources permit.
Wells in the valley downstream of the tailings dam
are regularly monitored. The copper content of the wastewater is also
regularly monitored. According to the mine management, the concentration
of copper in the water is increasing. Surface water and sediment samples
taken during the UNEP mission clearly document environmental contamination
with heavy metals. Analyses showed values for copper concentrations
in the range 50-200 mg/1, as much as 50,000 times higher than the surface
water quality standard in Germany. The Dutch target and intervention
values for copper in groundwater are 0.015 mg/1 and 0.075 mg/1, respectively.
The samples also showed contamination with organic components in the
range 0. 5 - 10 mg/1.
Metal resurfacing factory, Kicevo ('Tane Caleski')
Tane Caleski, a screw, wire and metal resurfacing factory, was established in 1967. Its capacity is more than three times greater than its present annual production level of 1,500tons. The plant currently employs about 350 workers.
Several hazardous chemicals (mineral acids, cyanides, cutting emulsions, and salts of chromium and zinc) are used for surface treatment. The plant's wastewater contains sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitrogen hydroxide, detergents, chromium Ill, zinc, and other heavy metals. In addition, an estimated 25 % of the 4.5 tons of oil components used monthly in production are lost to the environment, probably including groundwater.
Construction of a wastewater treatment plant began in the 1980s, but was never completed. Wastewater is theoretically pretreated in a sedimentation and pH-neutralization basin. The sedimentation basin, however, has never been emptied and is now completely full. Consequently, all wastewater, which is likely to be contaminated with heavy metals, especially zinc, is discharged into the canal without any pretreatment or sedimentation. The canal water drains to the Vardar River and probably into the upper groundwater aquifer. The plant has not monitored or investigated the potential contamination of soil and groundwater in the vicinity.
UNEP found that an area of about 50 m2 was contaminated with oil, suggesting that oil-handling procedures should be improved. The upper groundwater aquifer is likely to be affected by this spillage.
The Lojane mine, north of Kumanovo, was open almost continuously between 1923 and 1979. During the mine's first thirty years, chromium was extracted. In 1954, the mine began to extract antimony, and in 1965 an antimony smelter began operation at the site. According to the MEPP, an open dumpsite for flotation waste created by the mine holds over one million tons of tailings containing arsenic, antimony, and other hazardous substances.
The UNEP mission paid a brief visit to the Lojane mine. A soil sample taken at the edge of the dump found 8,093 mg/kg of arsenic, over 50 times greater than the German threshold for arsenic in industrial soil. The dump is at the edge of a road regularly used by local people. Residents stated that wind blows landfill dust into the ambient atmosphere.
Further investigation, needed immediately, could reveal
that Lojane is an environmental 'hot spot'.
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Last update: 19 March, 2001