MAC: Mines and Communities

Norilsk Nickel plant leaks 66 tonnes of nickel into environment

Published by MAC on 2014-07-16
Source: Helsinki Times, YLE News (2014-07-16)

ELY Centre: Norilsk Nickel violated permit provisions

Helsinki Times

15 July 2014

Norilsk Nickel violated provisions set forth in its environmental permit by failing to detect and respond to a recent nickel leak sooner, the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) of Varsinais-Suomi has ruled.

Although the leak was caused by a technical failure, the personnel should have monitored the system and consequently been able to detect the leak sooner, the ELY Centre views.

The leak of nickel sulphate that took place at the Harjavalta plant of Norilsk Nickel on 5-6 July lasted for up to 30 hours. "Monitoring failed. The understanding is that environmental permit provisions have been violated," Eljas Hietamäki, a senior inspector at the ELY Centre, says.

"The leak itself was caused by a technical failure, but the failure and leak were not detected as prescribed in the permit. Had they acted according to the permit, they would've been able to take action to stop the leak sooner," he continues.

After visiting the plant on Tuesday, officials from the supervisory authority determined that although the leak was detected by the technical system of the plant, no action was taken.

The technical failure occurred in the heat exchanger of the plant, causing the water used for cooling, which is both drawn and released into the Kokemäenjoki river, mix with the process water. As a result, a total of 66 tonnes of nickel, 90 tonnes of sulphate and 1 tonne of cobalt was released into the river.

Sulphate is not as detrimental to the environment as nickel.

Also the police are set to look into the leak, with the ELY Centre expected to file a request for inquiry later this week.

Joni Hautojärvi, the managing director at Norilsk Nickel, has told that in addition to the technical failure, human error contributed to the leak.


Finland: Left, Greens and Norilsk Nickel weigh in on Harjavalta leak

YLE News

15 July 2014

Officials are torn over whether the waters of the Kokemäki River can be considered safe for normal use after a large amount of nickel and other metals flowed from a Russian-owned mining facility.

After 66,000 metric tons of heavy metals leaked into the river earlier this month from a Norilsk Nickel plant, hundreds of dead mussels have been found on the banks of the river.

"There are still many unanswered questions, such as the suitability of the water for lathering, the edibility of the river's fish, and so on," the Left Alliance executive committee stated. "The city of Pori must not play with the health of Finnish citizens."

Now the Left Alliance executive committee for the city of Pori says it wants the city to thoroughly examine the river to make sure it is suitable for swimming.

Pori officials have already deemed the water usable, but the environmental ELY center does not recommend using the Kokemäki water.
Green League concerned

Vice president Anne Bland of the Green League said on Monday that environmental officials have too few resources at their disposal to be able to monitor the actions of industry giants. The emissions in the rivers of Kokemäki and Eura speak to this lack of supervision, Bland said.

"Funding for the supervisory ELY centers doesn't exist," she went on. "The Ministry of Employment and the Economy should decide whether to give over control of the environment to businesses and industries, or whether resources should be upped for supervisory centers and environmental committees."

Bland went on to say that the issues with the waters involved in the recent nickel leak or in the Talvivaara emissions disaster last year are not just individual cases, but that the whole country's environmental surveillance systems cause problems continually.

"Decision-making has been decentralized," she said, "resulting in a muddying of the supervisory processes. We need tools with which to relay responsibility; and Norilsk Nickel has to have a strong hand in revitalizing the river it has all but spoiled."
Metal factory acknowledges fault

Joni Hautojärvi, chief executive officer of the Harjavalta Norilsk Nickel plant, admitted that the mussel deaths in the Kokemäki River reported on Saturday are probably due to the company's actions.

Hautojärvi also promised that Norilsk Nickel will indeed pay compensation for any and all consequences of the heavy metal leak.


Norilsk Nickel accepts full responsibility for leak

Helsinki Times

14 July 2014

The City of Pori has organised a press conference to enable experts and spokespersons at Norilsk Nickel to dispel rumours surrounding the recent leak of 66 tonnes of nickel into the river Kokemäenjoki in Satakunta.

City officials on Monday emphasised that there is no need to issue a no-swimming advisory and that the water can be used to water plants, with recent measurements indicating that nickel concentrations in the river have decreased since the accident.

Harri Helminen, an expert at the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Varsinais-Suomi, nevertheless urged local residents to use caution in using the water. The nickel concentrations, he reminded, remain abnormal and exceed the permissible limits prescribed for water for domestic consumption.

Joni Hautojärvi, the managing director at Norilsk Nickel, apologised for the leak, adding that the incident has also upset the staff of the Harjavalta plant. The company, he asserted, accepts full responsibility for the leak and will take care of any possible damages.

The ELY Centre has expressed its intent to file a request for inquiry with the police about the actions of Norilsk Nickel.

Hautojärvi on Monday also expressed his regrets over the mass death of mussels detected last weekend, which is believed to be a consequence of the leak. Authorities are expected to release further details about the deaths tomorrow.

Environmental experts have described the deaths as unusual, revealing that the feet of the mussels appear to have come off, while only the shells remain. Divers at the ELY Centre assessed the condition of species living on the bottom of the river earlier on Monday.

The leak was a result of human error during an operation involving the heat exchanger, Norilsk Nickel revealed on Monday.


Harjavalta nickel leak biggest on record

YLE News

9 July 2015

The nickel leak from a factory in Harjavalta is now the biggest ever recorded in Finland. The plant has now leaked some thirty times more nickel than was emitted two years ago from the Talvivaara mine.

Some 66,000 kilograms of nickel was discharged into the Kokemäki river over the weekend, far out-stripping the 2,000 kilos the Talvivaara mine emitted into Kainuu's waterways two years ago, although that leak did include other metals too.

Prior to Talvivaara's mishap the largest nickel discharge in Finland had been at Viikinmäki water treatment works, which let 900 kilos into the Vantaa river in 2011.

The river's flow has helped dilute concentrations to much lower levels than in the more stagnant backwaters around Talvivaara, however.

Around the Kainuu mine nickel levels were measured at between 30 and 60 milligrams per litre, whereas in the Kokemäki river the levels immediately after the leak were recorded at 8.8 milligrams per litre, according to the local centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.

The centre's head of watercourses Harri Helminen says the leak could pose a threat to life in the river, as nickel levels are currently 400 times greater than normal. Residents along the river are advised not to use the water for washing or for throwing on sauna stones.

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