It has emerged that the Environment Agency of Iceland gave the United Silicon factory in Helguvík official written warning that it was likely to be shut down in a letter dated April 12 this year. The reason for the letter was the release of substances into the environment which could have long-term health consequences.
The closure order was not enacted by the Environment Agency, however, because the company board decided that the main furnace would not be started up again the next time it unexpectedly stopped working for an hour or more.
Fréttablaðið newspaper also reports this morning that the Environment Agency received 80 further complaints from local residents in the lead-up to Easter, adding to the 300 it had already received.
Production at the factory is now completely halted following yesterday’s fire.
It is not yet known how long the plant will remain shut, but RÚV reports that its operators are considering action against the furnace’s manufacturer. “The equipment has not worked as it is supposed to work,” says the factory’s environment and security head, Kristleifur Andrésson. He adds that the furnace has been underperforming since it was installed and has taken far too long to sort out.
Björt Ólafsdóttir, the Minister for the Environment, yesterday went public, saying she thinks the plant should be closed down until questions in four distinct categories, from staff safety to financing, have been answered. Kristleifur responds that the company leaves it to other people to comment on what people put out on Facebook—even government ministers.