Environment

Mining town of Bor suffering from strongest SO2 air pollution in Serbia

Mining town Bor strongest SO2 air pollution Serbia

Grozni Laki / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode

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August 24, 2021

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Published:

August 24, 2021

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The daily mean limit of the presence of sulfur dioxide in the air was exceeded 15 times since the beginning of the year, according to data from a measuring station in Bor. It was the most in Serbia. The legal maximum is three times per year. The latest toxic cloud was so big that extreme pollution was detected in another unit in the mining town, which rarely happens.

Citizens of Bor experienced another serious episode of air pollution with sulfur dioxide – SO2, and reported having difficulties breathing. Photos and videos that users of social media published showed one could barely see the town from the mist.

The mining hub has the highest number of such incidents in Serbia this year. The daily mean limit for sulfur dioxide values in the Bor Gradski park station was topped 15 times since the beginning of the year, the most in Serbia, and the legal maximum is three times per annum. The second and third place are held by the town’s two remaining state-run measuring stations, with five breaches each.

SO2 covered entire town

The latest toxic cloud was so wide that the extreme presence of SO2, three times higher than allowed on an hourly level, was registered at two stations at the same time. Such a phenomenon is rarely seen.

Dejan Lekić, who developed the xECO application for air quality data, told Balkan Green Energy News that excessive levels are usually detected at the Gradski park device. It means SO2 was much more widespread than usual and that many more inhabitants were exposed to it. Lekić is a member of the expert council of the newly-founded environmentalist organization National Ecological Association (NEA) and he used to be the assistant director in the Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

I can’t describe how heavy smoke was

The pollution episodes are more intensive since Chinese company Zijin took over the mining and smeltering complex, Bor resident Milica Nikodijević told us. She lived her whole life in the town in Serbia’s east. During the spike in SO2 concentrations, she made a video clip of Bor completely covered with a thick white fog.

“Imagine what it’s like when you can’t open the windows at 40 degrees” Celsius, Bor resident Milica Nikodijević underscores

Air pollution in the city of Bor, video shot on August 23, 2021

“We feel choking. I can’t describe how heavy the smoke is to you. We suffer the most in the summer, in the morning hours, when we are taking the children to kindergarten and people are coming back from the third shift. Now imagine what it’s like when you can’t open the windows at 40 degrees (Celsius). I grew up in a district that was the most exposed to dust from pyrite cinder, but now it happens that the smoke covers the entire town and even reaches the Borsko lake and the Brestovačka banja spa,” she asserted.

People of Bor don’t have will to resist

She also recalled the fire that erupted last year at a nearby landfill, when extreme air pollution was registered. Of note, there were a dozen fires this summer in landfills in Serbia, including in Vinča just outside of Belgrade. Experts warned that toxic and cancerogenic compounds, particularly dioxins and furans, are released into the air in such situations. However, there are no official measurements of their presence.

“The people initiate a protest every year, usually in the summer. Then the company claims it would conduct maintenance and install filters. So they do something that makes it easier to breathe for a short while, but then it becomes polluted again and it goes on and on. Also, like last year, the response is weaker at the next protest, and then everything fades. Everyone is active in social networks, but they are nowhere to be seen when they should come out to the street,” Milica Nikodijević said.

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