Environmental Effects of Kronospan’s activities

Kronospan Sebes’ activity generates emissions of gas and dust with a negative impact on the environment. Given the fact that Kronospan’s industrial platform is situated within the residential area of Sebes but also in proximity of agricultural land, the emissions’ negative impact is generated upon agricultural lands, biodiversity, on the soil and subsoil as well as on the population’s health. Beside this regular level of pollution, Kronospan has on many occasions exceeded legal limits for gas and dust emissions.

In address no. 854/26.11.2007 the Alba Iulia Environmental Guard shows that „the debit of gas generated by the drying installation of its wood base panel production facility is of 670.00Nmc/h and of 300.000 Ncm/h from the drying installation of its medium density fiber boards production facility, totaling as such 970.000 Nmc/h.”

In a document entitled „Report by the Commission for special monitoring of the sources of pollution caused by SC KRONOSPAN SEBES SA and its impact on the environment for the period between 12-26.06.2007”, a commission subordinated to the Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable development and submitted to the Sebes Town Hall with no. 20.363/24.07.2007, on page 10 it is highlighted that „The emissions of PM10 exceed 3 times the legal limit as stipulated by OM 592/2002 (50 mg/cubic meter)”. The conclusion is that the daily chemical emissions reach 36.000.000 cubic meters, totaling in a year 436.000.000 cubic meters. Therefore in the last 5 years in the atmosphere around Sebes more than cubic meters of chemical emissions were released.

The process also eliminates between 1000 – 5400 kilograms of fine wood dust, with a diameter of under 10 microns – the well known cancer causing pollutant PM10 (5400 kilograms was the quantity measured when the concentration exceeded 3 times the legally admitted value). The legal limit is 1.800 kilograms /day. In Sebes in the last 5 years Kronospan released an average of 1.600.000 kilograms of fine wood dust PM10.

Medium density fiber boards are produced using liquid urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. They contain formaldehydes, a substance qualified by the World Health Organization as cancer causing. In Sebes, the formaldehyde production facility consists of: 8 reservoirs with a storing capacity of 15.000 liters each for the storing of formaldehydes, 2 reservoirs for methanol with a capacity of 10.000 liters each as well as other reservoirs for maleic anhydride, melamine, diesel oil, gasoline and other dangerous chemical substances. We can as such conclude that Kronospan Sebes represents a grave danger for the health of the environment and local population.

In the document entitled „Report by the Commission for special monitoring of the sources of pollution caused by SC KRONOSPAN SEBES SA and its impact on the environment for the period between 12-26.06.2007” it is also mentioned that ”Problems with the fugitive emissions of formaldehydes and dust were registered in the two industrial halls where wood is pressed and dried, emissions that are then released into the atmosphere through the ventilation system in the roof”.

In the period between 22-24.06.2007 formaldehydes measurements were undertaken in the location from point b. The limit was exceeded every 30 minutes.” The measurements undertaken at the Dry urea-formaldehyde (UF) resin powder production facility vary between 19-40mg/Ncm, as such exceeding the limit stipulated for Kronospan in its environmental authorization of 20 mg/Ncm.”The report also highlights that “[…] in the past no investment into environmental protection were done at the chemical factory.”

Total Organic Carbon (TOC) concentrations at the formaldehydes production facility are approximately 3 times higher than the limit imposed to the company in its environmental authorization(4 mg/cm) […] values obtained in the laboratory after formaldehydes samples analysis indicated exceeds in 2 of the 3 monitoring points: meteorological station and the courtyard of the ice cream factory Alpin”.

In autumn 2006 Kronospan discharged in the municipal waste dump of Sebes binders containing dry urea-formaldehyde resins, although these substances are very dangerous for the environment and population’s health and as such have to be placed in waste deposits with special retention and insulation functions. Kronospan’s act was detected and sanctioned by the Environmental Guard. What is more, Kronospan’s sewerage is connected to the town’s water treatment plant which is not functional. As such all toxic substances from the surface of Kronospan’s industrial platform are washed by the pluvial waters and taken directly into the Sebes river, which then flows into the Mures river – two very important sources of drinking and irrigation water in the region.

FORMALDEHYDE – Effects on the environment

In Kronospan’s case, the environment is constantly exposed to formaldehyde emissions which are produced at industrial scale. Moreover, as it results from numerous official controls made by the National Environmental Guard and and the National Environmental Protection Agency from Romania, Kronospan’s formaldehyde emissions were registered to be highly above the authorized limits. This way the formaldehyde spreads uncontrolled into the environment and profoundly affects the nature.

The formaldehyde is transported in air, water, soil. About 99% of emitted formaldehyde will eventually end up in the air, and the rest will end up in the water – soil. When released into the air, formaldehyde is expected to be readily degraded by reaction with photochemically produced hydroxyl radicals. Its’ air life (urban air with sun rays) is between 1 and 2 hours, or 12 hours if hydroxyl radicals are present.

When released into water, formaldehyde is expected to decompose in approximately 20 days. Formaldehyde is considered to be highly soluble in water, and its Henry’s law constant (3 × 10-5 kPa·m3/mol) suggests that it will be very unlikely to volatilize from water. This aspect is extremely important considering the potential risks to drinking water.

Again, because it’s high solubility in water, formaldehyde will transfer into clouds and precipitation generating formic acid – a component of acid rains. Indirectly, the formaldehyde ends up in the soil of lands destined to agriculture, surface waters and underground waters. When released in surface water formaldehyde is absorbed is sediments in small quantities. Formaldehyde has a level of chronic toxicity for the aquatic environment (fish, algae, bacteria). Birds which are terrestrial animals can if exposed to formaldehyde contract similar diseases to people. According to scientific studies, formaldehyde generated chronic diseases such as cancer, low fertility rate, behavior modifications and premature mortality. There exists no sufficient data to predict the long term impact on plants.

Formaldehyde is not expected to adsorb soil particles to a great degree and there exists no sufficient data to document the effects of formaldehyde in soil and subterranean water.

Although apparently the presence of formaldehyde itself in the environment is not long lasting, in case of constant emissions released at industrial scale, we face the permanent presence of formaldehyde in the environment and of course all it’s secondary consequences that it might cause.

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