Friday, 22 November

Heavy Metals Discovered in Hrazdan River

Local factories claim they aren’t to blame Samples of water from the Hrazdan River were taken at three points within the confines of the town of Hrazdan. They were testing for the presence of heavy metals. While results showed that heavy metal amounts were within the prescribed safety ranges, nevertheless, their concentrations still pose certain risks. The testing, ordered by the Aarhus Center, was conducted by the RA Academy of Sciences’ Center for Ecological Noosphere Studies. Seven distinct heavy metal traces were found in the samples tested. (The Aarhus Convention, signed in 1998, grants the public rights regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice, in governmental decision-making processes on matters concerning the local, national and trans-boundary environment. It focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities. There are 14 Aarhus Centers now operating throughout Armenia.) Heavy metal concentrates taken from the Marmarik River were used as a base level for comparison purposes. The top three heavy metals found were arsenium, chrome and nickel. These exceeded the base levels by a factor 2.7, .92 and .44, and 2.29, .88 and .47 at the third testing station. In September, the geo-chemical composition changed – arsenium took top spot at a concentration of 4.07, chrome at 2.51 and molybdenum at 1.74. Below the cleaning station at Kaghsi, arsenium, molybdenum and chrome were the top three metals, exceeding the base level at a factor of 3.87, 1.86 and 1.68. At the Hrazdan station in August, the overall pollutant factor was .63. In September, it grew ten times to reach 6.3. Below the Kaghsi station, the pollutant coefficient was .78 in August, rising to 5.4 in September. Dominating the list of pollutants were arsenium, chrome and nickel. In September, molybdenum replaced nickel in third place. During August-September, the pollutant coefficient ranged from 7-10 times higher than the norm. In September, arsenium and cadmium levels dropped 2-3 times. Nickel levels only dropped at the Marmarik station. Molybdenum and chrome levels rose in September. Edgar Yengibaryan, a director of the Aarhus Center in Hrazdan, says that these metals do not dissolve easily. For example, he noted that if one unit of mercury or chromium enters a person’s body, it would take 25 years to break down and be removed naturally. If farmers use the Hrazdan River for irrigation, then these metals can wind up in the fruits and vegetables eaten by humans. Edgar Yengibaryan said that his group wanted to see if heavy metal pollutants indeed existed, since factories up river claim they aren’t polluting the water. Test results prove the opposite. Factories in the area include the cement plant owned by Mika Baghsasarov, “HrazdanMash” industrial combine, Hrazdan Thermal Electric Plant, the 5th Energy Block, and others. All are mostly fueled by gas. There were separate discussions with the owners of these enterprises. Hrazdan Thermal told the visiting environmental researchers that they did not emit re cycled water back into the river. However, a major component of cement is chromium, according to the experts. Mr. Yengibaryan says this would be hard to prove since there are others waters sources that feed the Hrazdan River. More comprehensive testing is needed to gauge the actual health risks at this stretch of the river. However, the funds for such in-depth studies are lacking. This study does lay the groundwork for further discussion of the matter by all the parties involved and to create a joint framework of cooperation to minimize the dangers. Mr. Yengibaryan says the rise in gas prices has relegated environmental issues to the back burner. These enterprises are more concerned with their financial bottom line. “Chromium pollutants can increase since the metal is used in the production of cement,” says Mr. Yengibaryan. The director at the cement factory said that if gas prices continued to rise, they might be forced to switch over to coal. This would spell certain disaster for the local environment. Mr. Yengibaryan didn’t mince his words. “They would have to burn 2,000 tons of coal per day. It would be a catastrophe.”

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