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Environmental service granted €0.7m to clean up toxic blaze

The Latvian government on June 27 agreed to grant up to €700,000 to the State Environmental Service for cleaning up the illegal plastic waste dump in the Jurmala seaside resort town after a vast fire at the site about two weeks ago. Environmental Service head Inga Koļegova also told Latvian Radio that the blaze is expected to have a major impact on the water quality in the area.

The financing will be granted from the contingency funds in the national budget.

According to the State Environmental Service, there are about 14,000 tons of plastic waste that need to be removed as soon possible to prevent further contamination. Prima M, the company that owns the facility, has refused to clean up the territory, saying it had no money to pay for the clean-up. Also, the company still insists that the plastic materials stored in its territory were recyclable materials, not waste.

The State Environmental Service will hold an urgent tender to find a contractor for the clean-up operation. The preliminary cost estimate is up to €50 (VAT included) per ton of plastic materials that have to be removed.

As reported, a highly dangerous fire started in the Sloka area in Jurmala on the afternoon of June 18 as plastic waste caught fire. Flames spread over the area of 1.2 hectares and consumed also a hangar, the State Fire and Rescue Service said. The fire that released dark clouds of potentially hazardous smoke was put out the following morning.

The State Environment Service had instructed the company to remove waste from the territory already before the fire but Prima M turned to the court, asking it to repeal the decision by the environmental authority.

After the fire Prima M said they suspected that the fire had been started by arsonists. The Latvian State Police confirmed they had opened criminal proceedings over the fire in Jurmala.

On June 28 the head of the Environmental Service Inga Koļegova told Latvian Radio that the storage of the waste at the site had amounted to "deliberate illegal activities, by bringing waste into the country".

It emerged that about 40% of the waste on the site was consumed by the blaze. Judging from the plastic wrappings, some of it had been brought in from Sweden. 

Currently the service is cooperating with Swedish colleagues, said Koļegova. According to her, if the guilty parties are found in Sweden, part of the funds used for the cleanup might be retrieved from them as well.

It was also reported that hazardous waste was found at the site.

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