Toxic waste site clean-up costs raise new stink

Take note – story published 8 years ago

The infamous sulfuric acid tar ponds of Inčukalns will require an extra 11 million euros to be adequately cleansed of the toxic sludge that has been threatening the groundwater and souring the air in the nearby countryside since the 1960s, claimed Skonto Būve, the company contracted to do the clean-up.

Minister for the Environment and Regional Development Kaspars Gerhards (National Alliance), however insisted Thursday that the job has to be done within the parameters of the current contract with the state. As ministry spokesman Arnis Zacmanis told national information agency LETA, the developer has sent letters addressed to the Prime Minister and Finance Minister indicating the need for additional financing, but the state considers these claims to be unjustified.

The State Environmental Service (VVD), which is in charge of dealing with sites like Inčukalns, has yet to be notified in writing by Skonto Būve about the situation.  

Now the government suspects the firm may be trying to take advantage of the situation in the midst of the project, to pressure the government into paying more for it to be completed.

Skonto Būve on its part claims the State Environmental Service has misleadingly downplayed the size of the acid tar dumps. Company spokeswoman Ilga Sokolova told LETA the southern pond contains up to 45% more of the toxic waste than previously reported during the official tender process.

The poisonous chemicals in the landfill were dumped during the Soviet era from the perfume and medical oils industries. After independence was restored, any further dumping was prohibited at the ponds, located about 30-35 kilometers from Riga.

In 2010 a contract was signed between Skonto Būve and the VVD worth 28.49 million euros. However last year amendments to the contract were approved, raising the costs to 42.67 million euros, justified by the atypical chemical properties of the sulfuric acid tar lying in the ponds.

According to plan, the pumping out and purification process of the first level of waste inside the southern pond must be finished by the start of summer, including the further excavation and processing of two more levels. A similar set of works on the northern pond are supposed to be done by the end of summer.

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