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Friday 17.08.2018 | Name days: Oļegs, Vineta
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Air quality in Ventspils on par with the rest of Latvia, measurements state

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«Concentration of PM10 particles in air in Ventspils does not exceed the average index across Latvia, which means the air in the port city is not worse than average in Latvia,» says SIA Estonian, Latvian & Lithuanian Environment board member Aiga Kāla.

BNN had previously reported that the topic of air quality has been a very hot topic in Ventspils these past couple of weeks. Many complaints have been received from Ventspils residents about the presence of coal particles in the air, which can be explained with unusual weather conditions in the city. Other complaints detail the horrible smell coming from SIA Bio-Venta.

On 31 July, representatives of Ventspils Commercial Port (VCP) and State Environment Service decided to meet with residents of Ventspils.

«There is a lot of misleading information reported by the media in relation to dust and the effect it has on human health. Those are coal (not dust) particles. They are 10 μm larger than dust particles and cannot enter the human body. Therefore they cannot impact human health,» said SIA Estonian, Latvian & Lithuanian Environment board member Aiga Kāla at the beginning of the meeting.

She added that «large particles visible with the naked eye can cause some discomfort, but they do not end up in our lungs». To fix this situation, Ventspils Commercial Port considers using snow cannons to create a fog-like barrier from the side of the docks. VCP Technical Director Māris Lieģis said during the meeting that the port also has plans to set up more platforms with snow cannons to create the ‘water wall’. He mentioned visiting Klaipeda, where his Lithuanian colleagues also tried using snow cannons in summer.

Representatives of the State Environment Service stressed time and time again that no environment pollution is found in Ventspils. «As confirmed by Ventspils regional environment office, there have been ten cases of PM10 particle concentration exceeding permitted levels at the coal loading complex in the first six months. Not a single case was registered in July. Permitted concentration level of PM10 particles in residential areas is 50 μm/m3. The highest concentration level recorded in Ventspils in July was 21.7 μm, and it was recorded only once. In other days, concentration levels varied from 3.1 μm to 18.7 μm. This means no pollution was recorded in Ventspils,» as BNN was previously told by State Environment Service deputy director general Aina Stašāne.

Measurements are provided by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre’s laboratory and State Monitoring Network, which provides data monitoring. Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre is responsible for air quality measurements across all of Latvia, as well as maintenance of observation stations, performance and quality of measurements.

Ventspils resident Malda, whose home is located just opposite of the port terminals, says even though there has always been dust, the current volumes are unprecedented. «On 28th, 29th and 30th of June we were covered in coal dust because of some winds. It is like this all the time, but we somehow manage. This year, however, everything is absolutely horrifying. So I decided to call State Environment Service and ask what is going on. They told me there would be a meeting [with residents], so I decided to come.»

Aiga Kāla says the weather is causing dust to gather all across Latvia, even Riga. Still, «the difference in dust particle concentration between 2017 and 2018 in Ventspils is very low».

She adds that some visual disturbance is typical for Ventspils and something processing companies have to deal with.

Ventspils City Council opposition deputy Aivis Landmanis commented during the meeting that even in all the years he has worked in the city council not once has he been able to access information regarding strategic decisions Ventspils Freeport authority and city administration have undertaken to improve the environment situation in the city. He stressed that «Ventspils Freeport authority and Ventspils City Council should be the first to answer questions, because the current situation is the result of negligence of two institutions».

VCP chairman Valērijs Pašuta agreed that problems should also be addressed through political means.

Residents asked how VCP intends to compensate the inconvenienced caused to them. VCP Administrative Legal director Alīna Rugine stressed that the port compensates created pollution problems to the state by regularly paying the Natural Resource Tax. This fee is collected by the state, and then uses the money to promote efficient use of natural resources, further limit pollution, reduce production of products that could become future pollutants, stimulate development of environment-friendly technologies, support sustainable development of the national economy, and finance environment protection activities, as the tax is described on the website of Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry.

Rugine also stressed that VCP is a company with category B polluting activities.

Continuing: «Residents have free access to the list of conditions for the issue of category A and B permits, which are accessible on the website of the State Environmental Bureau of Latvia, as well as information regarding monitoring and control results in each regional environmental office».

Nevertheless, laws and expert opinions failed to convince representatives of Ventspils City Council. Agnese Jansone, head of the city council’s personnel office, and the person who gathered signatures to request limiting coal dust levels at the port, told BNN after the meeting: «Today I understood that regulations are disorganized. The only weapon is the law». She added that the city should introduce stricter requirements.

Even Ventspils City Council first deputy chairman for infrastructure affairs Jānis Vītoliņš noted that «The State Environment Service has the right to submit proposals for regulations if EU regulations ‘contain absolute nonsense’, and they should do this in the context of the situation in Ventspils».

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

The State Environment Service has given VCP several tasks to complete before mid-August: 1. Ensure that all measurements of hard coal heaps are documented; 2. Set up a monitoring station right opposite of coal storage locations; 3. Set up video surveillance systems to observe coal loading and unloading from ships; 4. Perform regular activities to keep residents informed of the situation (which was done on 31 July).

Additionally, it is necessary to perform rotation of heads of regional offices of the State Environment Service starting from 1 August.

«Rotation of officials in posts is a normal practice for the State Environment Service. We form teams and change them accordingly to address everyday matters and emergencies. Right now it seems the office in Ventspils needs a fresh pair of eyes. New managers with new approaches will contribute to improvement of results. It will also motivate employees put more effort into ensuring better air quality in the entire region, not just Ventspils,» said State Environment Service deputy director general Aina Stašāne.


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