The public prosecutor’s office in the city of Bitola on Friday filed criminal charges against the state-owned REK Bitola coal power plant and its Director for failure to implement mitigation measures at the plant’s ash landfill.
Davor Pehchevski , Balkan air pollution campaign coordinator | 9 September 2019
The charges, filed under Article 218 of the Criminal Code on Environmental and Nature Pollution, stated that from January 2015 to February, 2017, REK Bitola and its Director breached several articles of the Law on Environmental Protection by allowing coal ash to be dumped without covering it with overburden to stop the dust flying around.
By March 2017, the ash dump was spread over an area of 50,000 m2 and during strong winds, it causes a health hazard to REK Bitola employees and local residents by blowing around. Particulate matter is harmful to respiratory and cardiovascular health irrespective of its composition, but coal fly ash often contains heavy metals, making it additionally dangerous.
The charges represent a precedent in the Western Balkans, where pollution from ash dumps is a widespread problem in places like Pljevlja, Montenegro, and Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but has so far been largely ignored by the authorities.
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