Fluoride Action Network

Skawina Aluminum Factory to be Closed Because of Pollution

Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts | January 22nd, 1981 | SOURCE: Polish TV 1830 gmt 7 Jan 81
Industry type: Aluminum Industry

As it has no filters at all, the enterprise, situated near Cracow, ”emits into the environment more than 1,700 t of pure fluorine, of which more than 800t finds its way into the environment in the most dangerous form, hydrogen fluoride”. This is the reason for the particularly high incidence of inflammation of the respiratory passages among the inhabitants of the Cracow area. Modernization of the enterprise is not financially feasible, since the cost would equal that of building a new enterprise with modern production technology (Warsaw home service 0800 gmt 27 Dec 80).

At a meeting arranged on 7th January by the editorial office of the ‘Gazeta Krakowska’, attended by the press, representatives of the Polish Ecological Soviety and scientists, Z. Szalajda, the Minister of Metallurgy, announced that the enterprise was to be closed. This cannot be done immediately as it has a large workforce and a big stock of equipment; it is impossible, too, to give up at once the production of 50,000 t of aluminium a year.

The timetable for the closure is to be discussed further.

A decision has also been adopted to build a new enterprise with the most modern technology near Konin. Its construction is planned to take 42 months.


The Economist

January 10, 1981

People matter more than aluminium

Poland’s new political balance of power is putting an end to the east European principle that where there is muck, there is socialism. Worries about environmental pollution have hitherto carried little weight. But on January 3rd the mayor of Cracow, Poland’s loveliest city and the old royal capital, ordered the immediate closure, on environmental grounds, of half the capacity at the Skawina aluminium smelter, 160 electrolytic tubs. In November, some people living near the smelter had brought a court action against the management of the aluminium mill, and the local authority on whose territory it lies, demanding compensation for the damage caused to their health by toxic waste from the smelter. Waste had been used as surfacing for local roads; when it rained, fluorine from the road was washed downhill towards their houses. One woman got fluorisis and another toxicosis. Cracow health authorities confirmed that the emission of hydrogen fluoride from the smelter was high.

While the case was still going on, the ministry of metallurgy in Warsaw closed 35 of the smelter’s electrolytic tubs; it said they would enable new, safer technology to be installed. The mayor of Cracow and his citizenry decided that this was not good enough. The mayor closed down another 125 tubs, saying that pollution should now decrease by 60%.

The ministry in Warsaw is unhappy. Skawina has half Poland’s aluminium capacity, so the mayor’s actions will knock 25% off the country’s aluminium production of about 100,000 tonnes a year. Another 90,000 tonnes a year are imported–one third from the west for hard currency. The ministry says Poland may have to pay $50m a year for extra aluminium imports to make up for the closure. And the Skawina episode may be only the start of a series of environmental demands. On January 1st, cellulose production stopped in the big plant in Jelenia Gora after complaints from the public about the damage its fumes were doing to this tourist area.

Poland’s present industrial disorganisation emerges bleakly from some new official statistics. In 1980, Poland exported 43m tonnes of coal, about a quarter less coal than planned, but the domestic fuel shortage is still causing a crisis. Seventy of the country’s 91 cement kilns are shut down for lack of coal (and hard-currency heavy oil). Work on 49 big projects has been halted because of the government’s decision to cut investment by 15% in 1981. The share of national income devoted to investment is expected to fall to 14% in 1981, down from 19% in 1980 and more than 30% in the 1970s. Since much of the plant for various projects was ordered a long time ago (some from abroad), the value of the uninstalled plant is expected to increase by about 40% to 70 billion zloty ($2.3 billion) by the end of 1981.


The Associated Press

July 9, 1984

Pollution Endangers Monuments and Health in Ancient Polish Capital

Associated Press Writer

KRAKOW, Poland – Apple trees no longer blossom and air pollution has defaced historic monuments in this ancient Polish capital, designated a cultural treasure by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Few European cities can match the magnificance of Krakow’s 900-year-old Wawel Hill castle and cathedral complex, or its vast Old Market paved with stone and lined by Renaissance buildings.

But pollution from automobiles, the city’s 400,000 coal stoves and the massive steel mill in the industrial suburb of Nowa Huta are clouding the skies, destroying buildings and, according to environmentalists, threatening the health of the 718,000 residents.

“Krakow is at the eastern edge of a sulphur dioxide belt that begins in England and stretches across Europe,” said chemist Jerzy Haber, a member of the mayor’s Environmental Council. “Pollution is worst in Krakow.” “By midsummer, most trees in the city center lose their leaves, not from the approach of winter, but from pollution,” said KrystianWaksmundzky, a geographer who led the city’s Ecological Club in 1980-81, during the existence of the now-outlawed Solidarity labor federation.

Waksmundzky said in an interviewed that official efforts to clean the air have sacked off since communist authorities declared martial law and suppressed Solidarity in December 1981.

“The health of Krakow citizens is in grave danger,” the monthly newspaper Prawo i Zycie (Law and Life), said last November.

“Cancer, heart disease and artery problems run between two and eight times as high (in Krakow) as among people in the rest of the country,” said the newspaper, published by the Polish lawyers’ association.

Dr. Maria Gluminska of Krakow’s Medical Academy described the city as “an ecological disaster area” and cited research showing alarming rates of cancer and heart disease. “Apple trees no longer bloom here,” she said.

Air pollution is serious in other parts of Poland as well, particularly in the southwest, where sulphur dioxide is threatening forests along the Czechoslovak border.

Pollutants also poison Poland’s surface water and Baltic seacoast, where many beaches have been deemed unfit for swimming.

Official efforts at pollution control have been hampered by the same economic crisis which sparked the 1980-81 labor upheaval. The nation’s central planners have been reluctant to curtail production at Krakow’s biggest industry and prime polluter, the V.I. Lenin Steelworks.

“Because of the economic crisis, we cannot solve these problems too quickly,” said Haber, who is a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and heads its Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemisty.

Even the politically hardline Polish army newspaper, Zolnierz Wolnosci (Soldier of Freedom), which normally backs development of heavy industry, acknowledged in its June 26 edition that “the facts are real but brutal.”

“The share of the great steelworks’ harmful effect on the environment amounts to 97.3 percent” of recorded pollution, the newspaper said, citing a report by the Krakow Metallurgy and Mining Academy.

During the Solidarity era, environmentalists forced closure of the Skawina Aluminum plant, then the worst polluter in Poland, seven miles from the city center.

“In 1980, the emission of fluoride from the Skawina aluminum works reached 42 kilos (92.4 pounds) per ton,” Zycie Prawo reported. “In Western aluminum mills, this figure does not exceed 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds) per ton.”

Another prime polluter in Krakow, said Haber, are the 400,000 coal stoves that heat the ancient houses in the city’s Old Town.

“We have always had the stoves, but before the steel mill was built (with Soviet advisers in the early 1950s), steady west winds blew the smoke away,” Haber said in an interview.

“Building the factory changed the winds, and caused an inversion. All the dust and smoke is held over the city.”

Efforts are under way to convert city center houses from coal to gas heat, but the project will take more than a decade.

During the next 10 years, said Haber, pollution will eat another 2.5 millimeters (0.1 inches) from the surfaces of the buildings, sculpture and monuments that encouraged UNESCO to declare the city a cultural landmark.

Stanislaw Juchnowicz, an architect who helped design the new town around the steel mill in the 1950s, is trying to convince authorities to move most services and offices to the outskirts to reduce congestion. But that project, if successful, also will take years.

“Building Nowa Huta was a mistake,” concedes Juchnowicz. “The dilapidation of Krakow is going faster than the restoration.”


The British Broadcasting Corporation
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts

August 16, 1984

Air Pollution Reduced in Cracow

Warsaw home service 1800 gmt 6 Aug 84

The municipal environmental protection and water conservancy department has announced that the fluorine compounds which are lethal for the city, have declined. Measurements reveal only small quantities. The year 1980 was most dramatic, when the air over Cracow was receiving 3,000 t of poisonous gases. The closing of the electrolysis section in the Skawina aluminium enterprise has reduced this to less than under 500 t. The recent use by the Lenin iron and steel combine of a different type of flux has eliminated over 300 more. In addition, there was a decline of about one-third in the emission of sulphur dioxide. The city’s big industrial enterprises are simply receiving better coal with a smaller content of sulphur. Despite the reductions in the emission of hydrogen fluoride and of sulphur dioxide in the air over Cracow, it is still one of the most polluted towns in Poland.