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Saturday 19.10.2019 | Name days: Drosma, Drosmis, Elīna

Polluted areas in Riga disappear from registers; builders often relieved of clean-up

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

Polluted territories in Riga have a tendency to disappear from registers of such territories. Often this results in builders being relieved of the responsibility of construction restrictions and the duty to clean polluted territories, as reported by public broadcaster TV3 programme Nekā Personīga.

Although Riga’s administration was well-aware that there is pollution on the territory of Lidl store in Sarkandaugava, no restrictions were applied. This means the new owner has to clean thousands of cubic metres of ground from pollution before construction can commence.

The pollution on Duntes Street 25 was studied as far back as 2006 and was recorded in documents of the city council. However, the official register of polluted areas was told nothing of this. Only when the territory was acquired by Lidl Latvia it turned out that the level of oil products in the ground exceeds the critical level forty times.

Although the law states that polluted areas are to be included in a special register, this does not accurately reflect the actual situation. For example, in 2013 Riga City Council had surveyed 13 polluted areas that were not reported to the register, journalists explain.

Only a territory is added to the register of polluted areas, the municipality is supposed to establish restrictions. Riga City Council prohibits all construction in such areas until they have been properly researched. In such cases Riga City Council also requests cleansing ground and underground water.

During the Soviet Era there were ground water cleaning facilities on Krievu Island. Seventeen years ago pollution with chemicals was observed in a 12 ha area.

Nekā Personīga programme reports that five years ago Krievu Island project was launched and Riga Freeport ordered one more research project to be performed. It turns out that pollution has disappeared completely. This means the polluted area status was no longer in effect and it no longer prohibited holding construction on the entire northern side of the island.

However, opposite to what Riga Freeport’s ordered research showed, the pollution has not gone anywhere. Last year’s planning documents for Krievu Island mention the presence of chemicals across the entire territory, the programme reports.

Although pollution is supposed to be dealt with by the party that caused it in the first place, this does not apply to territories that had suffered pollution during the Soviet Era. Pollution cleansing of major areas is financed by the state, but no one seems to know or pay attention to smaller territories, which means possible threats to human health remains unknown and unaccounted for. Money was instead allocated only for the cleaning and encapsulation of old landfills. Only even after clearing landfills ground water will remain polluted for decades.

Nekā personīga notes that some of the historically polluted areas were cleared of this status as a result of dangerous chemicals simply disappearing without any cleaning efforts.

Apartment homes are planned to be built in the area where Riga Gardening Pesticides warehouse previously stood. Soil analysis from ten years ago showed the presence of mercury, chromium, cadmium, petroleum products and other substances there, whereas last year’s soil analysis showed no pollution.

Pesticides from all over Latvia were carried to the warehouse in Viļāni. They were stored in piles. The territory was hit by fires twice. Remaining substances were carried from there in the 90s, but the soil and groundwater were already heavily polluted with dangerous chemicals, including

The new owner of this territory had ordered a research, which showed that the concentration of dangerous chemicals has declined by a thousand.

Inese Kurmahere, director of the State Environment Service’s Supervisory Department, says pollution has not reduced, adding that it is necessary to considered results from initial research.

However, Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s Environment Protection Department’s head Rudeīte Vesere says people cannot hope nature to do all the work. As time passes pollution may end up in food products.

Environmental Health Office head Normunds Kadiķis comments:

«There could be heavy metals and, as you’ve said, pesticides. Often these substances are classified as carcinogenic substances – substances can and often do cause different malicious factors for human health.»

«It is not excluded that historical pollution remains in the soil and could potentially end up in ground water,» explains Kadiķis.

To ensure that historically polluted areas are no longer dangerous, officials urge residents to send samples. The price of those samples could reach hundreds of euros, however.

State-maintained polluted areas register rarely contains data for specific locations. Without knowing what to look for, the price of analysis may reach thousands of euros, the programme reports.

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