From Iceland — Landowners Demand End To Smelter Pollution

Landowners Demand End To Smelter Pollution

Published September 23, 2014

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Christian Bickel

A group of landowners in Reyðarfjörður have told the Alcoa Fjarðaál aluminium smelter to stop the emission of fluoride in the area.

Austurfrétt reports that the landowners’ group Landeigendur Áreyja has told the directorship to put an end to the omissions, which they say are far too high. Guðrún Kjartansdóttir, speaking to reporters on the matter, said that before the smelter was built, area residents were promised that they need not worry about any kind of fluoride pollution from the smelter.

“We were told that this would be a very hi-tech and perfect smelter,” she said. “It is unacceptable to live with the instability that this situation creates for the harvesting of up to nine months of winter feed for livestock.”

As reported, fluoride emissions from the smelter exceeded safe limits in the summer of 2012, prompting the Alcoa to send warnings to area farmers that hay grown in the region may have been poisoned. Geir S. Hlöðversson, the managing director of environmental matters at Alcoa, told reporters that the unusually high emissions were due to malfunctioning machinery.

Last January, more information came to light. The fluoride levels discovered were measured at 3,000 microgrammes per gramme of bone ash from three sheep, and 3,900 microgrammes in one in six sheep at the nearby farm Slétta. The “danger mark” for fluoride concentrations is 4,000 to 6,000 microgrammes. Before the smelter began operations, fluoride levels in sheep were usually somewhere around only 800 microgrammes.

Sigríður Kristjánsdóttir of the Environmental Agency expressed concerns about these results, saying, “We are worried about this. We need to pay close attention to this, and continue investigations.”

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