Heavy rains last February at the Norsk Hydro Alunorte facility in Barcarena, Para state, Brazil created an outcry that bauxite toxic waste was poisoning fresh water and sickening the local residents;a claim Hydro denies.
Hydro reports that early data of study by Eviro-Tec, Nalco, Brazilian agency Ibama and the Evandro Chagas Institute indicates no evidence of leaks or mechanical failures at the Brazilian plant.
Instead, early indicators are that flood conditions forced Alunorte to perform controlled, unlicensed release of untreated effluents into a specified canal to relieve emergency pressures within the facility.
Since the crisis first manifest, Hydro has maintained that there’s been no direct evidence of a toxic leak at the facility.
Responding to allegations, Brazilian officials prompted a court order against Hydro to reduce its production capabilities 50% until the allegations of contamination of the water supply were resolved by Brazilian authorities.
Halvor Molland, Hydro’s Director of Public Relations gave comment yesterday, March 11th, that an early review finds no evidence of leaks or mechanical failures, but rather that an emergency scenario last February of heavy flooding required controlled discharges into specially constructed drainage ditches: ‘The canal we used for these discharges is not covered by our permit and we’ve notified regulators of our actions. However, we have no indication that these controlled emissions have had a negative impact upon the surrounding environment,’ he added.
Molland detailed how heavy rains in February created extreme pressures within the facility that called for extraordinary measures to prevent system failure. Two controlled discharges were then carried out: ‘We confirm that unlicensed, controlled discharges occurred,’ said Molland, while also denying that Hydro has attempted to conceal details concerning these unlicensed emissions.
NTB gave Minister of Industry Torbjørn Røe Isaksen (H) stating that he posits a close governmental monitoring of unfolding information: ‘We’ll ask Hydro for further details (related to these discharges of water). We fully expect Hydro to address the seriousness of the allegations and expect their utmost remedy.’
After traveling to Brazil for a first hand accounting, Hydro CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg states: ‘Early testing results by health care professionals tasked with finding answers in Brazil indicate that any toxic water is the result of drinking water and sewage mixed by flood. Their (health care workers) tentative opinion is that the Alunorte plant is not a direct cause of the current health crisis facing this region.’
Since February, Hydro has assisted with humanitarian relief to the communities of Barcarena and further, has organized experts to review the scenario in Alunorte and report its findings directly to Hydro’s CEO Brandtzæg.
Hydro’s Brazilian Alunorte facility is the world’s largest alumina refinery, employing about 2000 employees.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today