Friday, May 27, 2005

Euro Commission calls on Spain to clarify Campo Benzene levels

The European Commission has called on Spain to clarify the assessment of Benzene levels in the Campo de Gibraltar following a formal complaint lodged in Brussels earlier this year by local environmental campaigners.

The complaint, which was filed by the Environmental Safety Group and other environmental groups in the area, pre-dates last fortnight’s controversy over this highly toxic substance.

But Spain has yet to provide the data requested by officials in Brussels.

Lone Mikkelsen, press spokesman for the EC’ s environment directorate, confirmed that the commission had received the complaint about Benzene emissions and was aware of concerns in the Campo de Gibraltar.

“We are in contact with the Spanish authorities to seek information on the assessment of the levels of Benzene in this region,” Ms Mikkelsen said.
“We have asked them to explain to us what measures they are taking and whether it is true that the levels are high.”

There was widespread alarm two weeks ago after a leading scientific body in Spain pointed to Benzene emission levels from the Cepsa refinery plant in Puente Mayorga that occasionally exceeded the legal limit.

But six days later, it retracted the statement and concluded that emission levels, despite high peaks, were within the legal parameters. Several months previous to that, however, local environmental campaigners had taken an air sample where the Benzene level far exceeded the limit under European Union rules. The current legal limit is 10µg/m3 [micrograms per cubic metre of air], including a margin of tolerance. The highest peak recorded by the Spanish scientists was 8.76µg/m3, which is within the law, but the sample taken by environmental campaigners last year showed levels of 110µg/m3.

That was way above the legal limit and prompted the Brussels’ complaint.

The rules on Benzene are set out in a directive dating back to 2000 that also required the EC to submit a report to the European Parliament on implementation. The report should have been filed by the end of 2004 but several European Union member states, among them Spain, have failed to provide the necessary data.

“The experience with this directive is still very limited and it would be premature to [submit a] report based on only few data supplied by Member States,” Ms Mikkelsen concluded. There is no indication as to when the report might be completed.

Related Articles:

25 May 2005 - CEPSA emissions within the Law - Confirmed

24 May 2005 - BBB responds to confusion on Benzene level limits

24 May 2005 - Scientists create confusion over Benzene legal limit

18 May 2005 - IU express concern in Andalusian Parliament

13 May 2005 - CSIC report confirms high levels of pollutants in the Bay of Gibraltar

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