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Radioactive pollution found in fuel used by Rīgas Siltums

Photo: rs.lv.
A new precedent took place this summer – radioactive pollution was found in fuel used by Rīgas Siltums.

So far it has been determined in the investigation that the source of radioactive pollution came from wood chips imported from Belarus. A six-month monitoring period has been established for Rīgas Siltums. This is an unprecedented case for the State Environment Service. An inspection has commenced to determine if this was an isolated or systematic case, as reported by Nekā Personīga.

SIA Getliņi EKO board chairman Imants Stirāns says upon entering Getliņi, all vehicles go through radiation screening gates. «If radiation exceeds permitted levels, the vehicle gets detained.»

Nekā Personīga reports that radiation screening gates were triggered at Getliņi landfill on 14 June. «There were no antique clocks, medical equipment or other items that usually have a high level of ionized radiation in the container».

Stirāns says the detained container held ashes of wood chips. «Wood chips were used as fuel by one of Rīgas Siltums’ boiler house in Zasulauks. Radiation specialists called in concluded that the radiation screening gates at Getliņi landfill were not mistaken. Lab tests showed that concentration of radioactive pollution exceeded permitted levels four to six times.»

The programme reports that Rīgas Siltums has halted the function of four boiler houses for more than a month. These include boiler houses in Daugavgrīva, Vecmīlgrāvis, Ziepniekkalns and Zasulauks. No excessive radiation levels were recorded at any of them. Nevertheless, workers were issued with radiation measuring devices and trained in their use. Radiation screening gates were also installed to control wood chip suppliers. Rīgas Siltums did not inform its owners [Riga City Council, Latvian State, SIA Enerģijas risinājumi, RIX, AS Latvenergo] of this incident.

Vice-chairman of the council in Rīgas Siltums and Economy Ministry’s representative Kaspars Lore says: «Of course, employees were worried what this means and if there are any risks for their health. It was a lesson for all of us. The way the management of Rīgas Siltums reacted was serious: they helped clear things up.»

«Soon enough the origin of the problematic cargo of wood chips was uncovered. Due to intense rainfall last autumn, Agriculture Minister had declared a state of emergency for forestry. Local companies were unable to supply wood chips, and so R Grupa, which imports wood chips, got its hands on the procurement offer,» the programme adds.

The Chernobyl disaster, which happened 32 years ago, is considered to be the biggest nuclear catastrophe in world history. Ukraine’s neighobouring countries still suffer from the consequences of this disaster. State Environment Service’s Radiation Security Centre was not concerned about the radioactive cargo and instead of recommending its destruction the service advised Rīgas Siltums to mix it with regular ashes to reduce concentration of radiation in it, Nekā Personīga stresses.

When asked about the recommendation to mix radioactive ashes with non-radioactive ones and have them delivered to Getliņi, SES director general Inga Koļegova said SES was inspired by Lithuania’s practice in this matter.

She explains: «This decision – to mix radioactive ashes with non-radioactive ones, was made to meet requirements of the Cabinet of Ministers regarding concentration of radioactive particles to make it permissible for them to be buried at the landfill. In recent years Lithuania has applied increased control over radioactive wood chips and granules important from Belarus. The country has also applied stricter requirements in relation to permissible radiation concentration levels.»

Deputy Director of the Radiation Security Centre Mārīte Čaikovska: «Lithuania, which is right next to Belarus, has established criteria for wood fuel. Those criteria were developed based on many, many scientific studies. We would be happy to introduce analogous criteria, but we have not performed similar studies.»

The programme claims neither the environment service nor minister Kaspars Gerhards see any reason for stricter regulations. R Grupa company will continue cooperating with Rīgas Siltums until October 2019, because the company won in the procurement project for supply of wood chips for this year’s heating season, Nekā Personīga reports.

AS Rīgas Siltums board member Raivis Elliņš says of all the offers the company had received the one from R Grupa was the cheapest. He says «past contracts did not include permissible radiation concentration levels, whereas now they do. I doubt it is financially beneficial for them to continue supplying cargoes to us’. He stresses: ‘We will no longer accept [their] cargoes. So there are no risks any more.»

Nekā Personīga mentions that increased radiation levels were also recorded in some private company this summer. On 12 June, a container of wood chip ashes from Rīgas enerģija was not allowed to enter Getliņi. The radiation level was the same as the one recorded for the cargo from Rīgas Siltums.

The programme adds: «The company is indirectly owned by Māris Martinsons’ family. Companies associated with Martinsons often receive orders from Riga municipality, especially if Riga Vice-Mayor Andris Ameriks is the managing them.»

When asked if the aforementioned cases were only coincidental, AS Rīgas Siltums council chairman Vjačeslavs Stepaņenko said: «I will not comment on those two cases because I do not have information regarding the entry of some cargo with excessive radiation concentration. But if wood chips come from the same suppliers, perhaps our colleagues may have experienced something similar in the past.»

The programme adds that Rīgas enerģija lost its MPC permit this year because police suspect the company cheated during the CHP plant commissioning test. Nevertheless, its contract with Rīgas Siltumu remains in force.


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