PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Floods have inundated two dioxin contaminated buildings
at the Spolana chemical factory outside Prague, creating the potential for hazardous
chemicals to wash into the Elbe River, a Greenpeace
observation team said Thursday.
Ninety percent of the company sites are under water and the mercury contaminated
area has been flooded since Wednesday.
Thursday afternoon a chlorine cloud at the factory forced local residents
to seek safety indoors. The Greenpeace team had earlier observed smoke coming
from the factory site. Overnight a small explosion occurred inside the factory.
The Vltava River burst its banks Tuesday after days of torrential rains. Water
engulfed the city of Prague, flooding the historic city center. Some 200,000 people
have been evacuated in the Czech Republic, and across Central Europe the rains
continue and the rivers run high.
The current flooding threatens to poison the Elbe River not only with dioxins
and the mercury from vinyl chloride production, but also with other toxic substances
from the Spolana facility such as DDT, endrin, diendrin, lindane, benzene and
heptachlor, the environmental watchdog group warns.
"Spolana should be made accountable for the damages caused by this accident.
They have known for years about the risks connected with contamination on their
site," said Martin Hojsik, Greenpeace toxics campaigner for Greenpeace Central
Spolana a.s. Neratovice is one of the largest companies in the Czech chemical
industry. It is owned by Unipetol which in turn is owned by the National Property
Fund of the Czech Republic - the Czech state.
Neratovice is the town 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Prague on the River
Elbe where the company has its headquarters on a 262.5 hectare (649 acre) site.
Spolana produces polyvinylchloride (PVC) and other basic chemicals and pharmaceutical
products. According to Greenpeace, the two dioxin contaminated buildings were
former production facilities of the herbicide 2,4,5-T, more commonly known as
An accident at the chlorine station in July 2000 had negative consequences,
"mainly in the media," said Jaroslav Strop, Spolana's general director,. After
a technical failure, there was a leak of 188 kg of chlorine into the air.
The company halted its 2,4,5-T production on account of the severe health
effects on workers in 1968. Extremely high dioxin concentrations were indicated
within in the surroundings of the contaminated buildings.
Greenpeace has been fighting Spolana over chemical pollution for a long time
and blames the company for allowing the contaminated buildings to remain within
the Elbe flood zone despite environmental concerns for potential flooding.
Last December, Greenpeace challenged Strop to take direct steps to secure
the buildings on the Elbe banks that are heavily polluted with dioxins. The company
put a flood barrier around one of the more endangered buildings after Greenpeace
"Despite knowing about the dangers, the company has not taken specific measures
to clean up and prevent what we now see today," Hojsik said.
Elsewhere across Central Europe the rain continues. The Danube is surging
through Slovakia and threatening the capital, Bratislava, and Romania is facing
the consequences of floods which have swept 24 counties.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2002