Joint Press Release of the Arnika Association and
the organisation Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment (AWHHE)
30 November 2010
Czech experts discover old DDT stocks in Armenia and help with solutions
PRAGUE – Representatives of the Toxics and Waste Programme of the Arnika Association discovered DDT contamination in all old pesticide storage areas during a recent mission to Armenia. The experts presented first results of analyses of samples taken during the mission. “Essentially in all places examined by us where pesticides are, or have been, stored, DDT contamination to various extent was found, and, in one case, even its old stocks in torn bags. However, the problem concerns not only DDT,” commented a co-author on the first analyses, Ing. Marek Šír from the Institute of Chemical Technology. This is true in spite of the fact that DDT was banned a long time ago. “This is bad news for our country, but, at the same time, we know better now what substances contaminate premises of old pesticide storages and disposal sites. We have tried to draw attention of both national and international institutions to this issue for a long time already,” said Elena Manvelyan, the President of the organisation Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment (AWHHE). Now, this organisation will use the obtained data both for negotiations with authorities and for informing local citizens, often living in close vicinity to former pesticide storages.
Within the framework of the project entitled “Scaling up Experience in Improvement of Chemical Safety to Contribute to Poverty Reduction in Rural Armenia”, the Arnika Association helps a local non-governmental organisation with plan for decontamination of old environmental burdens. In July, Armenia was visited by a six-member Czech team formed by young scientists from universities – specifically, from the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment of the Masaryk University in Brno, and the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague – and environmentalists from the Arnika Association. They examined 4 places of old pesticide storages and one dumping site for wastes from metallurgical industry. The joint 18-months project of Arnika and AWHHE was supported by funds from the EU, UNDP and foreign foundations.
“We want to help Armenia to get rid of old environmental burdens, on the basis of Czech experiences. We know that the first step is to map the extent of the problem. Whereas old environmental burdens are more or less mapped in the Czech Republic, also thanks to the fact that laboratories are well equipped, in Armenia it is known that hazardous pesticides are, or have been, stored in certain places, but it is not known which ones and to which extent they contaminated the buildings, soil, and the other environmental components,” emphasized the Press Agent of Arnika, Mgr. Zora Kasikova, the main difference between the situation in the Czech Republic and in Armenia. In order that any country, including Armenia, could be able to choose a suitable decontamination method, and to find financing for it, it is first necessary to estimate, among other things, the amount of material which has to be decontaminated.
According to criteria used in the Czech Republic, all the 4 mapped pesticide storages would have to be decontaminated. Definitely, for example fertilizers and pesticides used at present could not be stored in them. “This is one of the first simple measures we will recommend to our authorities. Without the analyses organised by Arnika, we would not have sufficient data for it,” said Emma Anakhasian from the AWHHE, describing one of the practical outputs of the research.
“One of the most shocking findings was that one of the pesticide samples from the storage in Jrarat contained 50% of DDT. The estimated amount of this pesticide stored here is in the order of hundreds of kilograms. The pesticide is lying in torn bags in a completely destroyed building, and, thus, it is readily scattered by wind and washed away by rain. The result of it is massive contamination of the surrounding landscape,” stated Ing. Zuzana Honzajkova from the Institute of Chemical Technology.
In the place where old pesticide stocks were dumped near Nubarashen, contamination by hazardous pesticides was found also out of the actual fenced area of the pesticide burial site. “It means that the danger of food chain contamination exists here. The area is accessible also for grazing cattle,” said Ing. Marek Sir. It is surprising that people living in the vicinity of the storages are not aware of the possible risk. “In the neighbourhood of the old pesticide storages, they grow vegetables, fish, and cattle, and drink water from uncovered wells without fear. However, they did not have information about the presence of pesticides such as DDT and lindane until now. We will inform them and we will ask state authorities for help with this,” said Elena Manvelyan.
Until now, only a burial site containing about 500 tons of pesticides, located not far from Yerevan, was discussed in Armenia. “The investigation organised by Arnika showed that contamination by pesticides such as DDT and other hazardous organochlorine pesticides ranking among persistent organic pollutants concerns more places,” noted the executive director of the Toxics and Waste Programme of the Arnika Association, and the coordinator of the Czech-Armenian project, RNDr. Jindřich Petrlík.
“In the next phase, we will examine the level of food chain contamination, and pesticide spreading by air out of the areas of their storages. In the end of the project, we would like to be able to at least outline the possibilities of decontamination of the places polluted with old pesticides. We will try to find help also from the Czech state institutions and we will look for the available technologies usable for solving the problem in Armenia. For all of these, cooperation with the international network IPEN is important for us. Both organisations are members of the network,” specified Petrlík on the next steps of Arnika in the project.
Arnika has experience with solving a similar problem in Klatovy – Luby, where it succeeded in pushing through decontamination of buildings used as a pesticide storage and preparation facility in the past. AWHHE members visited Klatovy on Monday, 29 November, within the framework of their several days lasting study trip to the Czech Republic. However, pesticide residues were not stored in Luby any more, in contrast to the Armenian storages.
The joint project entitled „Scaling up Experience in Improvement of Chemical Safety to Contribute to Poverty Reduction in Rural Armenia” was developed in the middle of 2009, and it was started in the end of the same year, thanks to financial support from the European Commission.
This press release is developed with the financial assistance of the European Union. Its contents are sole responsibility of Arnika Association and Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.