Fire in Przylepa – was there environmental contamination?

Pożar w Przylepie

On July 22, 2023. There was a fire in Przylepa. A hall in which chemical waste hazardous to humans and the environment was stored burned down. The fire department appealed to nearby residents to stay indoors and close their windows due to the thick, black smoke.

The fire in Przylepa was extinguished both from the ground and from the air. Chemical rescue teams also operated at the site. The fire was only extinguished after 2 days, and a total of approx. 200 firefighters.

Landfill in Przylepa a source of problems

That the place was dangerous had been known for many years. In 2012, waste was allowed to be dumped at a hall located on the site of the former meat processing plant in Przylep. Laboratory and oil-based materials, varnishes and other toxic substances were stored there. They were supposed to be disposed of, but this was not done.

In 2014. The provincial environmental inspector conducted an inspection and pointed out irregularities in the documentation of the stored substances. He also found that the landfill did not meet basic standards for storing this type of material, for example, the barrels were not protected from seepage. Fire safety regulations were also not followed. A year later, the same WIOŚ found that the stockpile had steadily increased, mostly with hazardous waste.

In the post-inspection documents, due to the finding of numerous irregularities and the risk of waste abandonment, the WIOŚ requested the authorities of Zielona Gora to revoke, with immediate effect, the waste collection permit in effect at the time.

Finally, in 2021, a court decision obliged the authorities of Zielona Gora to immediately remove the waste due to the lack of an owner of the site (the company ceased to exist). Again, no decisive action was taken to remove the landfill.

Fire in Przylepa – what burned?

According to information published on social media by Elzbieta Polak, marshal of the Lubuskie region, “the dangerous poison N-vinyl, methylbenzene, lead, toluene, xylene and others were burning in Przylepa.” They are mostly aromatic hydrocarbons, well known for their toxic and carcinogenic properties. Contact with them can be harmful in different ways, depending on the dose taken and the time of exposure.

Fire in Przylepa – is there cause for concern?

After the fire was extinguished, a lot of materials were left at the site. First and foremost is the residue of burned waste, which, although degraded, may contain toxic substances resulting from incineration. Extinguishing agents: water, foams and others, may be contaminated with burned substances and chemicals and toxins that require specialized disposal.

Currently, air quality tests are being conducted in the vicinity of the burn area, and samples of soil, agricultural crops, surface water and groundwater are being taken for testing. They are to determine whether there was environmental contamination as a result of the tragedy that was the Przylepa fire.

Lubuskie WIOŚ investigates water contamination and soil contamination

Inspectors from the WIOŚ in Zielona Góra confirmed the leakage of firefighting waters into the River Gęśnik. High concentrations of heavy metals (mercury, copper, nickel, zinc, cadmium, lead), aromatic hydrocarbons and petroleum hydrocarbons have been recorded in the water at the height of Przylep. In turn, the results of tests on water samples from the Łącza River, into which the Gęśnik flows, did not confirm their contamination by firefighting waters.

So far, the WIOŚ has presented the results of sewage samples from sewage manholes located in Zielona Gora-Przylep Street. Plant. According to the analysis reports submitted, there was no contamination of sanitary and municipal wastewater with firewater. On the other hand, the results obtained confirmed the inflow of post-extinguishing water into the stormwater drainage system, as indicated by reduced pH, elevated COD, heavy metals (mercury, nickel, zinc, copper, cadmium) and aromatic hydrocarbons.

The WIOŚ has also designated soil sampling sites and ordered continued water sampling to investigate possible levels of contamination by fire water and chemicals. The results of these tests are expected in the coming days.

Sanitary Inspectorate determines whether water contamination and soil contamination have occurred

So far, groundwater tests conducted by the Sanitary Inspectorate at intakes from areas adjacent to the Przylepa fire site have not revealed contamination. The water is suitable for drinking. More deep-water samples are being taken for testing, and the results will be reported by the City of Zielona Gora.

At the same time, the Sanitary Inspectorate has issued a warning to owners of home gardens in Zielona Gora who grow vegetables and fruits in them to refrain from eating them. To ensure the safety of residents, the City has commissioned food suitability analyses from the Institute of Plant Genetics at the Polish Academy of Sciences. The results of this research are not yet known.

The city also commissioned a groundwater sample from a piezometer located approx. 350 m southeast of the hall in Przylepa. The results of a sample taken from a depth of 3.42 m ppt showed no contamination. With the above in mind, they will now be considered as a background of physical and chemical water quality when further measurements are made in the area of St. Przylep-Zakładowa, that is, at the site of the fire.

The Marshal’s Office has commissioned its own study

The Marshal’s Office of the Lubuskie Province has commissioned an independent company to conduct a separate study of the contamination of the area around the fire site. A specialized laboratory has already taken water samples and will prepare an assessment of ecotoxicity and the presence of health and life risks.

The question of whether there was environmental contamination after the fire in Przylepa has yet to be answered. The services are working, and the public, especially residents of Zielona Gora, must be patient. Admittedly, the first results are already known, but we still have to wait for the majority.

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