More Waste Burning Pollution in Iceland Skip to content

More Waste Burning Pollution in Iceland

Dioxin pollution from the waste burning stations in the Westman Islands and Kirkjubaejarklaustur in south Iceland in 2007 was much higher than from the waste burning station Funi near Ísafjördur in the West Fjords, which has been in the news lately.

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Kirkjubaejarklaustur. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

The Environment Agency of Iceland called the representatives of all of these waste burning stations to a meeting yesterday to discuss the situation and their continued operations, Fréttabladid reports.

Measurements taken in 2007 showed that the dioxin in the exhaust of the waste burning station in the Westman Islands was 84 times higher than the European Union guidelines from 2003 allow. Dioxin from the waste burning station at Kirkjubaejarklaustur was 95 times above the limit.

Dioxin has not been measured at Svínafell in Öraefi in southeast Iceland where the country’s fourth waste burning station is located.

All waste burning stations operate on a permit granted through an exemption from the EU regulations on dioxin in the exhaust for which the Icelandic government applied and received.

That might seem strange given that the EU’s strict regulations on waste burning can, among other reasons, be traced back to demands made by the Icelandic government on the limitation on emission of toxins in 1992.

Magnús Jóhannesson, undersecretary of the Ministry for the Environment, told Fréttabladid that in 1992 Iceland had the initiative of establishing international guidelines on pollution and was later given an exemption from the strict regulations it fought for.

The exemption was applied for due to financial reasons and pressure from the local authorities, Jóhannesson explained. The small size of the waste burning stations in Iceland was the reason the EU agreed to the exemption on dioxin pollution.

The Environment Agency provided the Ministry for the Environment with information on the dioxin levels in the exhaust from the waste burning stations.

Jóhannesson said the ministry did not consider informing the public on the dioxin pollution because the agency had not made any suggestions to that regard. It was the agency’s responsibility, he reasoned.

Director of the Environment Agency Kristín Linda Árnadóttir said in an interview with RÚV yesterday that both the agency and the ministry failed in this matter.

Click here to read more about the dioxin pollution.

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