2020.02.21 17:00

Lithuania’s state-owned port allegedly polluting Baltic waters

BNS 2020.02.21 17:00

After the Grigeo pollution scandal shook Lithuania, another company was found allegedly polluting the Baltic waters. This time, it's the state-owned port of Klaipėda, according to Rūta Juknevičiūtė from the LRT Investigation Team.

The port was allegedly discharging wastewater containing mercury into the Curonian Lagoon for seven years without the necessary permit, as well as potentially dumped polluted soil into the Baltic Sea.

Read more: Lithuania's EU commissioner pledges Baltic Sea cleanup plan

The toxins were separated from soil that had accumulated pollution since the Soviet era, and was stored at a hazardous sludge site near the Smeltė peninsula on the Curonian Lagoon. The pollution then reached the lagoon through wastewater and the food chain, according to the LRT Investigation Team.

Over four hectares of land "was turned into a biotoxic sludge landfill," Raimonda Zaborė from Klaipėda's civil society told LRT.

Curonian Lagoon is an inland body of water shared by Russia and Lithuania, which connects to the Baltic Sea.

Although the site was in use since 2013, environmental officials took samples only in May and September. The samples didn't exceed the allowable limits of mercury, but the port only acquired the license in early 2020 to discharge hazardous waste.

The Environmental Protection Department, therefore, intends to file an administrative offence report against the port.

Vidmantas Paukštė, the port's acting CEO, said the clean-up project in the Malkų Bay – from where the wastewater was released – is aimed at cleaning the Curonian Lagoon.

The water running off into the Curonian Lagoon from the sludge site is the same water as found in the lagoon, according to a statement issued by the company on Thursday.

Read more: Grigeo product sales at Lithuanian shops fall in wake of pollution scandal

The investigation also revealed that port was given permission by the Environmental Protection Department to dump 10.7 million metric tons of polluted soil. Environment protection officers are noting an increase of heavy metals in some places where the soil was dumped.

The company claimed that only unpolluted soil that was checked in labs is being released into the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic Sea is the most polluted water body in the world, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's report in 2018.

Read more: Baltic Sea polluted with pharmaceuticals, report finds