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At the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia held on 4 September 2013 Giorgi Tsagareishvili, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, presented his Committee’s yearly report and summed up the work it performed over the year. The report gave special consideration to the severe ecological situation in Imereti resulting from atmospheric air pollution. Specifically, at the sitting of 28 December 2012, the Committee discussed the disquieting ecological problems caused by harmful gases being released into the atmospheric air by factories operating in Imereti. Among those invited to the Committee sitting were managers of the factories, non-governmental organisations, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia and members of the local population. The report illustrates that the ferroalloy factory operating in Zestaponi bears no filtering devices which is accounting for the harsh ecological problems. In his speech Giorgi Tsagareishvili noted that: “The air samples collected in Zestaponi showed the concentration of manganese dioxide to be 237 times higher than the average daily concentration norm” which has alarming effects on the overall health condition of the local population as informed by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs.

FactCheck

took an interest in the matter and set out to study the toxic gases found in the atmospheric air of Zestaponi.

For a deeper insight into the matter we addressed the Ministry of Environment and National Resources Protection and received a response stating that the National Environmental Agency, LEPL performs the inspections of pollutions in the atmospheric air of Zestaponi three times a day by means of an observation point located on Chikashua Street.

The Ministry has incontrovertibly denied the allegations regarding the concentration of manganese dioxide in Zastaponi’s atmospheric air as being 237 times higher than the accepted daily norm. The Ministry further explained that in the case of such information being correct, it would have been impossible to sustain the life of any living creature in the city.

Harmful gases found in the air are listed below:

17 Of the abovementioned gases, the concentration of manganese dioxide is defined by Decree #28/n of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs dated 24 February 2003 not to exceed the accepted average daily concentration norm of 0.001 mg/m3 and the maximum concentration norm for every single inspection - 0.01 mg/m3.

As further reported by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection, in the period between 2010 and 2012 the indices of atmospheric air pollution with manganese dioxide in Zestaponi were as follows:

18

The indices shown in the chart above convey that in 2012 the amount of manganese dioxide in the atmospheric air of Zestaponi was 6.8 times higher than the accepted norm for an average daily concentration while the maximum concentration of a one-time inspection was four times larger than the accepted norm.

The information on the air pollution through harmful gases for the period between 2009 and 2012 can be found on the website www.aarhus.ge broken down by months while data on the current year can be retrieved on a monthly basis from the website www.meteo.gov.ge.

In order to make certain that the figure (237) mentioned by Giorgi Tsagareishvili had not been a sheer slip of the tongue we requested from the Parliament of Georgia the relevant yearly report of the Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources which confirmed the figure named by Tsagareishvili. As we were told by the Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, the report had been prepared based on reports of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection and the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs.

The monitoring of the harmful gases in the atmospheric air of Zestaponi is performed by the National Environmental Agency. The response of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection reflected upon the data acquired through this very monitoring according to which the average yearly amount of manganese dioxide in the atmospheric air of Zestaponi in 2012 was 6.8 times higher than the accepted daily concentration norm of 0.001 mg/m3.

According to the National Environmental Agency these surely represent high indices and clearly could lead to a discussion about the related risks although painting a catastrophic picture based on these figures would be incorrect. As for the information indicated by the MP regarding the 237-fold growth, these figures are not correspondent to the data of the National Environmental Agency which found it difficult to comment on Tsagareishvili’s information.

The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs defines manganese dioxide to be extremely toxic. Especially high risks are connected with the emission-transportation of pyrolusite

and the melting of steel during the extraction of manganese. Manganese and its admixtures belong to industrial toxins which cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems and are accompanied by neurotropic effects. Manganese poisoning is also characterised by cumulative effects and causes exclusively chronic intoxications. In the case of a chronic intoxication manganese dioxide is stored in parenchymal organs, endocrine glands, bones, the brain and the spinal cord. Raised levels of manganese in the blood do not represent an undisputable indication of intoxication. No strong correlation is observed between the intensity of intoxication and the extent of manganese concentration in the air around the work site, either.

High concentration of manganese in the air around the work zone (ferroalloy production, dry drilling in the mines) could serve as a cause for a rapid development of intoxication from two to six months after the initiation of mining activity.

Conclusion As noted above, manganese dioxide belongs to harmful gases found in atmospheric air and its accepted average daily concentration norm amounts to 0.001 mg/m3.

The concentration surpassing the set norm poses certain risks to human health.

Inspection of atmospheric air pollution is performed by the National Environmental Agency, LEPL under the governance of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection. The inspection of atmospheric air pollution in Zestaponi is presently carried out by means of an observation point located on Chikashua Street. The inspection is performed three times a day. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection uses the data acquired through this very process and no additional data is being sent by them to the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources.

The National Environmental Agency reports the average yearly concentration of manganese dioxide in the atmospheric air of Zestaponi in 2012 to be 6.8 times higher than the accepted daily concentration norm and not 237 times higher as claimed by the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources upon presenting the Committee’s report. The correctness of this figure has been refuted by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection as well as by the National Environmental Agency.

It is also to be noted that a 6.8-fold overstep of the accepted norm of manganese dioxide concentration is certainly associated with risks to health and the MP’s pathos in evaluating the situation of Zestaponi, although exaggerated, still has some valid points.

Accordingly FactCheck concludes that Giorgi Tsagareishvili’s statement: “The concentration of manganese dioxide in the air samples collected in Zestaponi was 237 times higher than the average daily concentration norm,” is FALSE.