The Knauf Insulation d.o.o. company has been accused of manipulating data on pollution at its rock mineral wool plant in the municipality of Surdulica in southern Serbia. Municipal Council chief Novica Tončev issued a written statement in late October 2017 expressing concern “over the untrue statements by the Knauf company about its rock mineral wool plant in the town’s Belo Polje suburb”, adding that the statements are used to manipulate with incomplete data on concentrations of toxic materials in the air and the ground.
The statement said the local authorities and population of Surdulica have been informed of the preliminary results of tests for concentrations of hazardous particles produced by the Knauf plant in the municipality. It said new tests were being “conducted by experts whose findings are not comparable to the results of tests in April and July that the Knauf management is citing”. Tončev did not specify who the experts are.
Tončev also expressed concern over the threats to fire employees at the Knauf plant, the limits placed on business communication and the cancelling of contracts with local entrepreneurs. There have also been cases of Knauf company lawyers sending threatening warnings to individuals and experts who have been revealing information about the harmful consequences of the company’s activities, the statement said.
Tončev called the Knauf company management to urgently introduce measures to preserve the environment and health of the population of Surdulica and bring its activities in line with the laws on environmental protection.
More than 1,600 residents of Surdulica signed a petition in mid-October demanding the removal of the Knauf company plant from the municipality because of pollution. The organizers of the petition claim that the pollution is the cause of a large number of cancer cases, adding that the plant in the Belo Polje suburb is polluting the environment with toxic gases and radioactive substances, that it is polluting the Vrla river and underground waters with waste acid.
Knauf engaged the Anahem laboratory in Belgrade to test the quality of the air in the zone of potential pollution. That laboratory said in its report that it did not detect quantities of suspended particles, sulfur dioxide, ammonia and formaldehyde exceeding the maximum permitted concentrations during the test period.
Knauf claims that the Surdulica municipal authorities signed a contract on March 9, 2017 with the Workplace Safety Institute in Novi Sad on quarterly monitoring of air quality in the municipality. The company said the results of the three tests by the Institute showed that pollution had not exceeded permitted values.