In the wake of several high-profile industrial pollution scandals, the Lithuanian parliament began hearings on a package of environmental protection laws meant to fix the “rotten” system.
Environment Minister Kęstutis Mažeika, who presented the so-called Klaipėda Package – after the site of one of the pollution incidents – says companies will risk losing their operation permits after three violations. Also, inspectors will be allowed to conduct inspections and take samples without warning the companies in advance.
“It's deplorable to state that we will still hear about environmental problems, and not once. My goal and duty is to eliminate them and fix the system,” Mažeika said during the parliament's extraordinary session on Thursday.
He pleaded with the MPs to pass the laws quickly, so that the “rotten, broken system can prove that it's still capable of working”.
Eighty-three MPs voted to confirm the programme for the extraordinary session, with no votes against and ten abstentions.
In early January, it emerged that Grigeo Klaipėda, a cardboard plant, was releasing untreated wastewater into the Curonian Lagoon, a bay of the Baltic Sea. Mažeika has previously said that the company may have been polluting since 2012 and caused environmental damage equivalent to up to 60 million euros.
Last week, plastic particles were spotted being released into the Neris river in Vilnius. It was coming from a pipe that belongs to Vilniaus Vandenys, the municipal waterworks company. It is suspected that the plastic came from one of the industrial plants connected connected to the city's water treatment system.
This week, environmental inspectors in Kėdainiai discovered an illegal pipe used by a sugar plant to dispose of wastewater into a small rivulet.