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Polluters by Mývatn Must Pay

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Polluters by Mývatn Must Pay

Mývatn.

From Mývatn lake. Photo: Uwe Lexow.

Iceland’s Minister for the Environment Björt Ólafsdóttir says it’s out of the question for the state to pay for sewage treatment for hotels or other businesses by Mývatn lake in Northeast Iceland, RÚV reports. The government has granted Björt permission to discuss solutions to sewage problems by the lake with representatives of the municipality of Skútustaðahreppur, to which the Mývatn area belongs.

Sewage problems by Mývatn lake have been a subject of harsh debate in recent months. The lake’s ecosystem is under severe threat from an excessive amount of nutrients, generally believed to be caused by human activity, such as sewage, fertilizer and industry. In 2012, a regulation requiring three-stage sewage systems by the lake was passed, but it has, for the most part, been disregarded by hotels and others in the area. The municipality of Skútustaðahreppur has requested state funding for sewage treatment improvements.

A report on the situation by Mývatn was written before the current government took over in January. Last Friday, Björt brought the issue up at a government meeting and asked for permission for herself and Minister of Financ Benedikt Jóhannesson to enter into negotiations with the municipality about finding solutions.

She told RÚV that all business owners, hotel owners and others, could not expect funds from the government to finance sewage treatment facilities. “And the same is true for their businesses as any other business—that those who pollute must pay themselves. Payment for that pollution won’t come out of taxpayers’ pockets,” Björt remarked. The state would be more likely to support sewage treatment for residents.

The cost of updating sewage systems in the area is expected to run between ISK 500 and 700 million (USD 4.7-6.6 million, EUR 4.29-6 million). Björt emphasized that the problem must be solved. In her view, even a three-stage sewage system (designed to remove 75 percent of the nutrients) will not be sufficient. She stated that a cleaning system which triggers a chemical reaction is needed to remove the nutrients. “So we should proceed carefully in finding a solution for Mývatn,” she remarked. “It will cost us a lot, so it had better work.”

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