2020.01.09 11:00

Pollution from Klaipėda plant to reach Latvia, shops to boycott company

BNS2020.01.09 11:00

Most of untreated wastewater allegedly released by Grigeo's paper plant into the Curonian Lagoon must have been carried by prevailing currents into the Baltic Sea, the mayor of the Curonian Spit municipality of Neringa said.

According to Darius Jasaitis, no more than one fifth of the pollutants could have remained in the lagoon.

“Eighty percent or more of the currents in the Curonian Lagoon go to the Baltic Sea, a larger body of water, so the pollution will be spreading further. Eventually, it will end up in Latvia,” the mayor said on Wednesday.

Read more: Klaipėda plant accused of polluting Lithuania's Curonian Lagoon

“I could be glad about it locally as the mayor of Neringa, but I can't be glad as a Lithuanian citizen,” he added.

The probability of the pollutants reaching the Curonian Spit settlements of Nida or Preila is close to zero, but this could affect people using water from local wells in Smiltynė, Juodkrantė and, possibly, Pervalka, the mayor said.

Prosecutors in Klaipėda said on Tuesday they had launched an investigation on suspicions that Grigeo Klaipėda could have been releasing untreated wastewater into the lagoon through a special pipe.

Since Tuesday, all of Grigeo Klaipėda's wastewater has been routed to the city's municipal sewage system.

‘Full responsibility’

Grigeo said on Wednesday it had set up a commission to look into the suspected release of untreated wastewater by its Klaipėda subsidiary.

“We take full responsibility and will not shy away from it,” Gintautas Pangonis, Grigeo's president and biggest shareholder, said in a statement. “We will do our best to determine the cause of this incident, eliminate it and prevent this from happening again.”

Grigeo Klaipėda CEO Tomas Eikinas said the commission started its work on Wednesday and is expected to produce a report within several weeks.

Earlier, Pangonis had said that the pollution could have been due to a breakdown rather than intentional activity.

Environment Minister Kęstutis Mažeika responded to the statement by saying Pangonis was “lying in a very cynical way”.

According to Mažeika, the damage to the environment could be as high as 60 million euros.

“The statutory limitation period is five years, so we can estimate the damage for five years. It could be 12 million to 13 million euros annually [...], or around 60 million [in total],” he said.

Read more: Entire Baltic stock market to suffer from Grigeo pollution scandal – economist

Boycotting production

The Alliance of Lithuanian Consumer Organisations has called for a boycott of Grigeo products, mostly cardboard and paper tissues.

Iki, Lithuania's largest supermarket chain, said on Wednesday it would not stock Grigeo products until all questions about the suspected release of untreated wastewater were answered.

“Today is an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their socially responsible behavior in deeds rather than words,” Indrė Baltrušaitienė, the head of communication at Iki, said in a press release.

Two other major retailers, Senukai and Norfa, followed suit on Thursday.

Flawed environmental protection

On Wednesday, the Lithuanian government instructed environmental authorities to analyse the pollution in Klaipėda and come up with proposals on how to better control the situation within a month.

The government wants other similar facilities to be inspected, too.

“The most important proposal concerns the adequacy and efficiency of the legal regulation of industrial facilities that process industrial wastewater in individual treatment plants,” Government Chancellor Algirdas Stončaitis said during the Cabinet meeting.

According to him, the current methodologies are flawed and the competencies are not clearly defined.

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