Oceana blasts EU decision to extend use of mercury in chlor-alkali plants until 2020

The EU Council has proposed a 13-year delay for plant conversions despite the toxicity of mercury for all marine organisms and in breach of European legislation.

Press Release Date: March 16, 2011

Location: Madrid


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Oceana staunchly opposes the conclusions of the March 14 EU Council meeting, allowing Member States to delay the conversion of chlor-alkali plants until 2020 despite the fact that the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive set the deadline to be October 30, 2007. This measure allows for the continued use of obsolete technology that involves the dumping of mercury into the sea and the bioaccumulation of the heavy metal in marine species, included those consumed by humans.

The Council’s proposal is included in its conclusions on the revision of the community strategy on mercury. It is unacceptable that the only measure applied by the EU when faced with the flagrant violation of a directive is to yield to the industry’s interests and delay the deadlines for application,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “These internal contradictions create a paradox in which the text reaffirms the Council’s commitment to the protection of human health and the environment while at the same time authorising this delay and merely inviting Member States to accelerate the conversion to  mercury-free technology in the chlor-alkali sector.”

Oceana points out that the IPPC Directive already included a conversion period for plants to adopt the best available techniques (BAT) and, consequently, implement mercury-free technology. This Directive will be repealed on 7 January 2014 in accordance with the new IPPC Directive on Industrial Emissions which, in turn, includes other directives on emissions generated by industrial activities.

Ana Barreira, Oceana lawyer and director of the International Institute for Law and the Environment, added, “it is unacceptable for the EU Council to make this type of invitation in direct opposition to an established directive because both institutions and citizens are obligated to respect the law in the EU. One of the fundamental values of the EU is the Rule of Law. However, the EU Council seems to have forgotten this, weakening its credibility, because 2020 is the year that this sector’s industries have been demanding all along, reluctant to change and in the benefit of their own interest. Meanwhile, the chlor-alkali plants continue emitting mercury into the atmosphere and dumping it into the seas aware of this heavy metal’s neurotoxic effect on all living things.”

More information: Mercury contamination