Czechs probe Polish claims of illegal toxic waste transfer

Polish authorities say toxic Czech waste from one of the country’s worst dumps has been illegally shipped across the border

Chris Johnstone 12.10.2011

The site of a future forest — in a couple generations, maybe. Under Geosan Group, the Ostramo lagoon in Northern Moravia remains a toxic mess. foto: © ČTKČeská pozice

The site of a future forest — in a couple generations, maybe. Under Geosan Group, the Ostramo lagoon in Northern Moravia remains a toxic mess.

Czech and Polish authorities are arguing about 20,000 tonnes of toxic waste which the Poles say has been shipped illegally from one of the Czech Republic’s worst pollution blackspots, the Ostrama lagoons.

The Polish Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, which says the waste was transported across the border illegally, is now demanding the return of the black, crude oil and lubricant waste to the Czech Republic.

“The Ministry of Environment, together with the State Environmental Inspectorate (ČIŽP), are looking into the situation surround the shipment from the Czech side and after ascertaining the situation will discuss a solution with Polish authorities,” ministry spokeswoman Michaela Jendeková told Czech Position.

Toxic sludge lagoons

The Czech waste shipper would be required to take it back with the ministry ensuring that this happened if illegal transport was proved, she added. European rules ban cross-border shipments of most types of waste and, in particular, the type of chemical cocktail found in Ostrama lagoons in the eastern Czech industrial city of Ostrava.

The lagoon site near the center of the city began to be used as a dump for refinery waste at the end of the nineteenth century. During the mid-1960s, the three lagoons were being used to dump waste from the recycling of lubricants although the sites were completely unsuitable for such dumping and no real preparations had been made against the leakage of toxic waste into the soil and groundwater.

Dangerous emissions

Efforts to deal with the sludge lagoons began in 2004 but have hit repeated problems and a rising bill for the planned clean-up. The Czech Ministry of Environment intervened at the start of this month after two instances of poisonous sulphur dioxide leaking into the atmousphere at levels above permitted limits. The levels, more than 10 times those laid down, followed night-time clean-up work at the lagoons.

In a letter dispatched to the Moravia and Silesia Regional Authority at the start of the month, Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa (Civic Democrat, ODS) to tighter and more comprehensive controls of the clean-up in spite of the pressure to push ahead with the work.

See related article: The (Czech) creature from the black lagoon