The United Silicon fiasco continues. Now, recordings from a monitoring station in the nearby town of Reykjanesbaer, about one kilometre from the United Silicon smelter, show high concentrations of arsenic. The EIA for the smelter stated that arsenic would be released in small quantities, 0.32 ng per cubic metre, but figures as high as 6.9 ng/m3 have been recorded. Note that the environmental limit for arsenic is 6.0 ng/m3, measured over a year, and that arsenic is a carcinogen that is implicated in both lung and skin cancers. Besides arsenic, 16 different PAH compounds, 6 other heavy metals and sulphur were detected, but these are not expected to cause health problems.
The Environment Agency are about to look for a company to carry out an engineering appraisal of the design and management of the plant and reiterate that only one furnace must be in operation – the original intention was to have four furnaces eventually. The company protested, but the Agency is adamant.
Reykjanesbaer council members have also had enough. Although they stood up for the plant at the residents’ meeting in December, now the mayor – who has been inundated with complaints since the start-up – says that the plant should be closed. Two other council members are also calling for the plant’s closure.
Remember that there is supposed to be another silicon plant set up by Thorsil, opposite the United Silicon plant. The operating licence for that was appealed late last year, granted with provisos and has now been appealed again, on the grounds that the synergistic effect of the two silicon smelters was not done.
UPDATE: It appears that the high arsenic levels resulted from some sort of sampling irregularity. The council are no longer calling for closure of the plant – though many problems still persist.