2020.01.10 10:32

Public outcry as Grigeo plant admits polluting Curonian Lagoon

BNS2020.01.10 10:32

After revelations that Grigeo plant in Klaipėda were releasing untreated water into the Curonian Lagoon, the company’s president has apologised and said it will establish a clean-up fund and bring in international experts.

Gintautas Pangonis, president and largest shareholder at Grigeo, said some wastewater was released into the lagoon after mechanical treatment, but prior to biological treatment.

"No 100 percent untreated wastewater reached the lagoon," he claimed at a news conference, adding that Grigeo’s subsidiary responsible for the pollution, Grigeo Klaipėda, "is legally liable for the environmental damage".

Read more: Pollution from Klaipėda plant to reach Latvia, shops to boycott company

"Today I'm here to apologised for what happened at Grigeo Klaipeda, what was done to Curonian Lagoon, the city [of Klaipėda] and Lithuania,” said Pangonis.

"My colleagues and I will do our best to prevent this from happening again and to repair the damage as soon as possible. We will bring in Lithuanian and international experts for this purpose," he said.

According to Pangonis, he was unaware that the emergency pipe was being used for discharging wastewater, and did not know how long the damage had been ongoing.

People responsible for wastewater management at Grigeo Klaipėda were suspended on Thursday. The subsidiary company's CEO stays in his post, because he took over only five weeks ago and, based on preliminary information, was not aware of the unlawful practice, according to the group's president.

Prosecutors in the port city said on Tuesday they had launched an investigation on suspicions that Grigeo Klaipėda had been discharging untreated wastewater into the Curonian Lagoon through a special pipe, causing tens of millions of euros' worth of damage to the environment.

Pangonis said on Thursday there was no special "pipe bypassing wastewater treatment facilities". He also said on Tuesday that the pollution could have been due to a one-off technical problem rather than intentional activity, but admitted on Thursday that he had been mistaken.

Meanwhile, several demonstrators gathered outside Grigeo plant in Vilnius to protest "profits over environment". The scandal has attracted wide-spread public attention, including from the country's ministers.

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

Trading in Grigeo shares due to resume

Trading in Grigeo shares, quoted on the blue-chip Main List at the Nasdaq Vilnius Stock Exchange, was suspended on Tuesday and is set to resume on Friday.

"Nasdaq Vilnius decided to resume trading in Grigeo. The essential information was announced by the company," the stock exchange said.

Grigeo said that the incident at Grigeo Klaipėda, one of eight companies in the group, would not affect the results of the whole group. However, Grigeo anounced on Friday that despite not seeing a drop in orders from abroad, "Grigeo has felt the suspension of orders for hygiene paper products from some retail chains operating in Lithuania" which announced a boycott earlier this week.

"We associate the drop in orders with the position of commercial enterprises on the events that took place in Klaipėda, declared in the public domain," Grigeo said.

Trading of Grigeo shares was suspended at around 15:00 on Tuesday after the value plunged 9.3 percent to 1.36 euros per share.