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Silicon Plant Must Close: Environment Minister

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Silicon Plant Must Close: Environment Minister

Björt Ólafsdóttir

Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

Björt Ólafsdóttir, Iceland’s environment minister, says she has had more than enough of the developing situation at the United Silicon factory at Helguvík. Her comments come following a fire at the plant last night.

The fire is the latest in a string of negative headlines about the plant, including local residents who say they are fed up with pollution coming from the factory since it went into action in November.

“Now this is enough,” says Björt. “The silicon plant at Helguvík must be shut down while the following issues are investigated fully,” Vísir reports the minister saying. She then lists four points; firstly, saying that an explanation is needed as to why local residents have been showing symptoms that pollution monitors cannot explain.

Next, working conditions at the plant need investigating, she says—citing the plant’s manager who explained elevated arsenic levels in the local atmosphere to a government meeting by saying that staff had been getting too hot and had been opening windows. This meant that dust from the factory floor went out of the window without going through the dust filtration system. Björt asks, therefore, how much dangerous dust staff members might be breathing on a daily basis.

Thirdly, Björt would like to investigate the plant’s finances and where its money is coming from.

She also criticizes the words of the local fire chief who said this morning that no staff had been endangered by the fire—arguing that there was clear danger to people on and near the site.

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