GB No. 2, summer 1990


In point 11 of the ecological sub-table agreements of the Round Table the administration was obliged to "work out and present within 6 months a list of plants which are the most destructive to the environment and to make a decision aiming at decreasing or liquidating their negative influence on the environment, including a proposal for the closure of the plant".

With a few months' delay the Minister of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry published such a list on page 4 of "Rzeczpospolita", dated 15th January, 1990. There are 80 plants located on the territory of 29 provinces, mainly in south-western Poland. The greatest number of these plants - 22 of the worst polluters - are in the province of Katowice, 5 in the province of Wrocław, 4 in the province of Tarnobrzeg. 6 provinces have 3 plants "Mister Big SYPH" each, 11 ones have 2 such plants each and 9 provinces have one polluter each.

As for the branch distribution of the plants, on the list there are: 5 cement plants, 12 power engineering plants (2 thermal-electric power plants and 10 power stations), 5 coal mines (3 black coal and 2 brown coal mines), 13 steelworks. The presence of the Truck Factory F.S.C. in Lublin on the list is a cause for concern. The others, 38 plants are almost exclusively various chemical plants.

The title "The Biggest Polluters" given to the list by the editorial staff of "Rzeczpospolita" although impressive, is nevertheless misleading and quite typical of the common, narrow understanding of ecology (the official title: "A list of plants that are most harmful to the natural environment"). Although the majority of the plants simply pollute the environment (with gaseous, liquid or solid pollutants) there are still other sorts of destructive influences. Two pulp-and-paper plants (in Ostrołęka and in Wrocław) produce (maybe not poisonous) but "foul-smelling" substances (a funny new-coined word). The other two - the brown coal mine "Tu- rów" in Bogatynia and the asbestos plant "Polonit" in ŁódĽ - produce excessive noise. The flow of heated waters (waste heat can be harmful!) from the power station "Konin" brings about the eutrophication of the P±tnowskie Lake. The adverse effects of the brown coal mine in Bełchatów consists in large-scale re-shaping of the earth's surface and forming a vast depression which causes the disappearance of sha-llow waters, drying the soil and ground subsidence. Moreover, the word "polluters" suggests limiting the range of adverse effects to living na-ture, which is misleading and which makes it easier to overlook financial looses caused by an ecologically un-sound economy. Good examples are three black coal mines "Czeczott", "Piast" and "Ziemowit", whose underground wa-ters constitute the main source of disastrous salinity of the upper Vistula River, which results, among other things in "increased corrosion of heating and water-supply systems, water constructions and sailing vessels, and seriously limits the possibility of utilizing surface waters for industry, urban economy and agriculture". Even the biggest technocrats - showing their detestation for human health and usually not their own - cannot neglect such losses. The term "polluters" does not comprise a very significant although apparently trifling matter, i.e. defacement of the landscape. The proper shortened name for the list then would be in my opinion "The Biggest Devastators".

Let's come back to the acts of polluting. The majority of plants pollute under usual circumstances, i.e. in the course of natural work. Some of them, however, can pollute in an abnormal way. The chemical plants "Organika - Zachem" in Bydgoszcz, "Police" in Police (nearly Szczecin), "Organika - Rokita" in Brzeg Dolny, "Polchem" in Toruń, the refinery in Płock and the nitrogen plant in Włocławek constitute a "potential source of extreme treat to the environment". Two plants pollute "from behind the grave". This is waste from the Rzeszów plant of lamps "Polam" (mercury pollution) and the Wrocław steelworks "Siechnice" (heavy metals). It brings to mind the absence on the list of the nuclear power station in Żarnowiec whose construction the Minister of Environmental Protection Kamiński declared in public to oppose, even at the expense of his position ("Gazeta Wyborcza" of 22nd of May, 1898, page 2). The nuclear power station "Żarnowiec" both during its operation as well as after closing down will be a source of extreme danger to the environment. It is worth noting, too, that the aluminum works in Konin, the plastic plant "ERG" in Pustków and the steelworks "Siechnice" (being in process of liquidation) pollute or threaten to pollute drinking water respectively for Konin, Mielec and Wrocław.

The harmfulness of each of the plants on the list is described very briefly (in a few sentences at most) while the description is almost exclusively qualitative (phrases like "highly destructive to the environment", "crossing the (emission) standards several times", etc.). Quantitative characteristics (maybe the minister is not acquainted with them?!) and more complete descriptions are missing. In my opinion the minister should publish a more complete list containing the actual data (or information about the lack of them) in the form of separate booklet.

In the introduction to the list we read that by 30th June, 1990. It is strange that nowhere in the press (a-part from "Rzeczpospolita" of course) have I come across a reprint of the list described and there are not many references to it, either. Is it better not to know?

Stanisław Zubek

GB No. 2, summer 1990 | Contents