Saturday, May 14, 2005

Scientific study reveals high levels of toxic substances

CEPSA refinery under scrutiny • Regional government to carry out epidemiological study

Junta de Andalucia has announced that it will shortly be conducting an epidemiological study in the Campo to determine the possible impact on the population of what it refers to as “environmental effects in the area.”

The announcement by the regional government’s public health department comes in the wake of publication of a study by a team of Spanish scientific experts into pollution levels in Puente Mayorga, showing abnormally high readings of benzene and nickel in the atmosphere.

The report by the CSIC (Consejos Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) commissioned by the Andalusian regional government in conjunction with the University of Cadiz, states that these emissions breach current EU environmental laws.

CSIC spokesman Juan Luis Ramos also declared that these substances are both carcinogenic and capable of harming the health of the population.

The scientists have been measuring air samples in Puente Mayorga – home to the CEPSA oil refinery in the bay – over the past year.

According to the study during westerly winds and in eight hour periods, benzene was detected in the air in quantities “five or six times over” the EU legal limit for this substance which is set at five micrograms per cubic metre.

CSIC recommend an inspection of the refinery installations to reduce emissions responsible for the high levels of benzene in the area. Additionally they call for an epidemiological study for the Campo and a specific one for Puente Mayorga.
The report also shows high levels of nickel above the EU permitted level in the small town which has been dubbed “barriada CEPSA.”

CSIC calls on the authorities to take the necessary measures for the companies involved to take “corrective action.” Acerinox is also urged to install filters and increase the height of its chimneys.

ESG react to CSIC report

Meanwhile the Environmental Safety Group (ESG) has called for urgent action following the publication of the results. An ESG spokesman said:

“We want to make public good news relating to the high levels of pollution in the Bay and the fight to reduce industrial emissions.

CSIC confirms that a study it had carried out on behalf of the Junta de Andalucia has validated the findings by the BBB (Bay Bucket Brigade) of extremely high levels of benzene and other gases being released into the environment by the oil refinery.

The CSIC reports that levels of benzene found in Puente Mayorga on an eight hourly average are five to six times higher than the permissible 5ug/m3 under EU law. Given the on the spot BBB sample of 110ug/m3 taken in the same zone, this validation must underline the need for urgent action to be taken.

The CSIC statement further recommends that medical in-depth studies are carried out on all residents in Puente Mayorga and that the industry responsible must be made to significantly reduce these dangerous emissions. Other pollutants were discovered in its study with recommendations for those thought responsible to adopt best practices to reduce pollution.

It was important to note that the CSIC inspection of the maintenance of the monitoring units was considered to be sub-standard and that an overview of locations and type of equipment needed to be carried out.

Overall, this statement, which will be forwarded to the European Commission, is welcomed by the BBB and ought to be welcomed by the public at large as being the first official acknowledgment that a big problem exists and has to be tackled urgently."

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