It is entirely possible that the poisonous tar that still remains in Incukalns tar ponds will stay in Latvia. The government considered multiple solutions for the decontamination of the polluted area in November. Whether or not the remaining substances are taken away for processing or left in Latvia to be buried in one of multiple landfills will depend on the new contractors.
Utilisation of sulphuric acid tar has been the most expensive stage of the tar pond cleaning process so far. This was the primary reason for the project’s rise in price, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.
The initial costs of EUR 29 million now exceed EUR 57.81 million. EUR 30 million of this amount could be provided by the European Union. «If you’re asking if there is no possibility of losing EU fund resources worth EUR 19 million, there is great hope to receive. Nevertheless, there is a possibility of losing this money if the project is not finished,» – says director of Finance Ministry’s EU Fund supervisory department Diana Rancane. The most important thing now is «avoiding stepping on the same rake in the future. Otherwise things will take an unexpected turn for the worst».
It is not the cleaning of the ponds that eats away significant portions of the funding. Tar processing solutions are what costs the most. It is important to prevent a situation in which the new contractor is not aware of the substances found in tar ponds. It is no less important to offer contenders a solution to better process pollution substances. Skonto Būve, on the other hand, seems dissatisfied with current conditions. The company is currently engaged in court processes.
«Judging from the new tended, its requirements and procedures, it can be safely said this place will not be cleaned. Tar will be simply buried deeper and covered up. Efforts to clean the place may result in the creation of an even more polluted area,» – says sworn attorney, Skonto Būve’s legal representative Viktors Tihonovs. He believes «they [State Environmental Service] will not try to come up with a decontamination process. What decontamination method? SES should say what the order is and how the decontamination crew should address problems.»
SES notes that Skonto Būve could have chosen on its own what to do with the tar. The condition of having processed tar incinerated at Cemex plant in Latvia was one of the additional advantages to win the tender. Unfortunately, Cemex processing power turned out not enough. Cemex main objective is concrete production, not incineration of dangerous waste. SES Director General Inga Kolegova notes that Skonto Būve had offered utilization of waste in the very beginning. The company stated their technology is not enough to handle the amount of work ahead of it. Additional financing was allocated to ensure partial utilization is carried out in Germany. Compared with utilization costs in Cemex, utilization in Germany had had been twice as expensive.
SES has to prevent a repeat of this situation. This means the new contractor has to know what is found in tar ponds and how to best deal with it. It is unlikely the government will be able to convince the European Commission to allocate more money or extend the term for the decontamination project. When asked by De Facto if there are any other surprises in store, Environmental Protection and Regional Development Minister Kaspars Gerhards said: «Surprises? There are currently three contenders. All of them are serious and experienced. Now it is up to SES to lead the selection process to its conclusion.»