Green Light for Farming in Dioxin Polluted Area Skip to content

Green Light for Farming in Dioxin Polluted Area

Experimental pasturing in Engidalur valley in Skutulsfjörður near Ísafjörður in the West Fjords conducted by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) to test the content of dioxin in the grass has concluded that the area is fit for farming again.

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Icelandic sheep. Archive photo by Páll Stefánsson.

However, it has been advised that farm products from Engidalur, especially those from cattle and horses, are monitored to begin with, Fréttablaðið reports.

The farmer at Efri-Engidalur, Steingrímur Jónsson, was forced to slaughter his entire livestock herds, 80 sheep and 19 cattle, in 2011 after it was discovered that they had been subjected to pollution from the waste burning station Funi in Ísafjörður for years.

Two hundred sheep from other farms in the valley were also put down.

Steingrímur said the news means little to him, pointing out that even though the testing indicates that livestock can again graze on pastures in Engidalur, a new herd doesn’t reappear out of thin air, it costs ISK 5 to 8 million (USD 40,000-64,000, EUR 31,000-50,000).

Steingrímur hasn’t decided whether he will return to farming and is seeking his legal rights in the waste burning affair with the aid of a lawyer.

Kjartan Hreinsson, a specialized veterinarian at MAST declared the results from the testing to be the best one could hope for in such a poor situation; the ban on the production and sale of farm products from the area has been lifted.

Three ewes and four lambs were kept in pastures in a fenced-off area on the farm Kirkjuból in Engidalur over the summer. The sheep were culled in the autumn for chemical analysis and collecting of samples.

The experimental pasturing indicates that even though the area is still somewhat contaminated, sheep aren’t likely to absorb as much dioxin while pasturing in the area as they did while the incinerator was in operation.

It is expected that the level of pollution will continue to drop now that the station has been shut down.

“The conditions must continue to be monitored. Dioxin was picked up at an above average concentration level than in other parts of the country but it is still below all guideline limits,” Kjartan said.

The highest concentration of dioxin measured during the experiment was 60 percent above the action limits; if food products exceed those limits, the source of the pollution is to be sought and emissions limited.

“I find this a very good result for farming in the area,” Kjartan concluded.

Click here to read more about the waste burning affair.

ESA

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