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Town Council Wants Silicon Plant Closed

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Town Council Wants Silicon Plant Closed

United Silicon, Helguvík.

The United Silicon plant in Helguvík, Reykjanesbær. Photo: Screenshot from RÚV.

The town council of Reykjanesbær, Southwest Iceland, would like the operation of the United Silicon factory in town to be shut down right away, RÚV reports. An associate professor of toxicology stated there is ample reason to worry if arsenic pollution exceeds environmental limits.

Among the polluting agents emitting from the factory is arsenic. According to an environmental assessment for the plant, its amount was expected to reach a maximum of 0.32 nanograms (ng) per m2 in the atmosphere. It has, however, measured 20 times that amount, or between six and seven ng. The environmental limits are set at 6 ng, but the Environment Agency of Iceland estimates that once numbers are in for 2017, the yearly average could exceed that amount.

Kristín Ólafsdóttir, associate professor of toxicology at the University of Iceland, told RÚV that residents have ample reason to worry if the level of arsenic goes beyond the environmental limits. Arsenic, she stated, is carcinogenic, and arsenic pollution in the atmosphere mainly causes lung cancer, but also skin cancer. There is certainly reason to take that kind of pollution seriously, she added.

Friðjón Ólafsson, head of the Reykjanesbær town council stated the town council is speechless over the work methods of the plant’s owner. “All that matters is the interest of the residents,” he remarked, “and in my view, the factory must close right away. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

He added that none of what was stated at the outset holds, that no excuses can be accepted anymore, and operation must shut down while repairs are made. The town council sent the Environment Agency a letter yesterday morning, requesting a meeting right away.

So far, Friðjón said, residents have been patient, but now, there is widespread discontent among them. “[The discontent] exists almost everywhere you go. I just came from the pool, and there, this was the main topic of discussion.”

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