Iceland slammed over dirty waste incinerators

May 17th, 2011

Iceland's National Audit Office has reprimanded the country's environment agency and environment ministry for failing to comply with pollution monitoring requirements set by the EU regarding waste incineration.

Tests conducted earlier this year revealed extremely high dioxin levels around four incineration plants. The tests were prompted after milk was found to be contaminated with dioxin in north west Iceland, near one of the plants.

Because of Iceland's small size, the environment ministry had pushed for exemption for older installations from the 2003 waste incineration directive. The EU gave its consent, although officials were reluctant as they knew small old plants tended to be highly polluting and badly managed.

Monitoring requirements for dioxin and other pollutants were set by the EU but the audit office found these were not implemented. Readings taken in 2007 which showed high dioxin levels were ignored when action should have been taken.

One waste incinerator was not tested until early this year, after the dioxin issue had hit the news. The installation turned out to have extremely high dioxin concentrations. Both this plant and the one in the north west have now been closed.

The audit office found that the reason why Iceland wanted the exemption was because of the added financial burden that local authorities would have to face in bringing the plants up to standard. Environmental and health concerns were mostly ignored.

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