The local authority of South Kurland is cautious about the project and wants to be sure of all possible risks, but some residents are strongly opposed to the project and are concerned about the environmental impact and whether it is necessary to collect hazardous waste from other countries to import to Latvia and process them here.
Meanwhile, the developers of the project claim that it will be zero-waste processing of hazardous waste without harming people or the environment.
Latvian Radio spoke to residents in the center of Grobiņa, who live very close to the Ķīvītes landfill of SIA Liepājas RAS, where project developers from Latvia and investors from Austria plan to build a spent catalyst treatment plant.
Local residents claim that the waste from the existing landfill is already ending up in the nearby forest and doubt whether a suitable and environmentally friendly modern factory can really be built for the estimated cost of three million euros.
Resident Mārtiņš [no surname was given] said: “I’m one of the people who live nearby, just a kilometer from the landfill. I can drive by it every day, I have a big family… I doubt they will do analysis for catalysts in their lab. The question is do we have an independent laboratory that can do this. I doubt it.”
Another resident named Zane [also no surname given] stressed: “Latvia has no such waste, catalysts are imported from Mexico and Bulgaria.”
Uldis Vārna, Executive Director of the South Courland District Municipality, said that the discussion on this project is ongoing and no decision has been made on whether to give the green light.
Vārna said: “Council members have contributed and write that the report contains many things [on the proposed plant] raise the questions. The Grobiņa Business Club also took part with a statement. The concerns have been recorded and passed on to the Environmental Monitoring Agency. We are waiting for an opinion. If the result is positive, the city council must decide. There are questions about the filters’ compliance with certain certifications, as well as the fact that there are two companies nearby that are related to hospitality and tourism.”
Making the decision is unlikely to be easy, Varna predicted: “Given the large public participation, I think it will be quite difficult for MPs to vote against the general public opinion. There is also the legal side, there is.” Arguments, there will certainly be lawyers who will intervene. If we vote against, it will be on the basis of solid arguments.”
Raimonds Veinbergs is Senior Consultant at SIA “Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Environment”, which prepared an environmental impact assessment. He explained to Latvian radio that people are concerned about air pollution and that used catalytic converters could be transported past their homes and what would happen if there was an accident.”
He said: “In the assessment we assessed the worst case scenario that could occur, the maximum possible emissions. People get worried when they see these numbers.”
Veinbergs compared the proposed plant and its potential waste to a conventional wood chip boiler house.
“The amount of emissions will be small, three-stage air purification plants are planned, very modern. The figures contained in the report are the absolute maximum values, if we compare these absolute maximum values with a small boiler house also in Grobiņa, then the [planned factory] emissions are smaller than the boiler house.”
Mārtiņš Berķis-Bergs, developer of the catalyst factory and board member of SIA “VNimO Services”, tried to calm local residents.
He said: “The product we get from the spent petroleum catalyst is ferrovanadium, a metal alloy used primarily in the engineering and aerospace industries. It is a metal alloy added to ordinary metal to make it stronger and more durable. It’s in cars and on airplanes.” After further processing, not performed at the Grobiņa site, vanadium is used in other technologies such as telephones, televisions and computers. Its high value makes it economically viable to recover from spent catalysts.
“No waste will be left behind in Latvia. What gets into the air is caught in the filters, the filters are washed with special water, the water is not drained into the ground, it is collected in tanks, and then taken to the appropriate companies, where these water is cleaned , this is a zero-waste technology. Potential devices, whose suppliers we already know, are certified in the European market, and there is 100% compliance with the environmental indicators set by Latvia,” he promised.
The company plans to create 30 new jobs at the manufacturing facility and process approximately 24,000 tons of catalysts per year.
An evaluation by the State Office for Environmental Supervision will probably not be available until September or October, when there should be more clarity about the next steps.
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