KLAIPEDA, Lithuania, Jan. 7, 2021 (Press Release) -One year after the incident, when incompletely treated wastewater flowed into the Curonian Lagoon, AB Grigeo Klaipėda consistently continues the changes so that similar stories would not happen again. According to Tomas Eikinas, General Manager of the company, the facts that came to light on 7 January 2020 became the biggest lesson that Grigeo Klaipėda is determined to turn into fundamental changes that will allow the company to take the path of sustainability and contribute to solving problems that are relevant to the community of Klaipėda. It is for this purpose that at the end of last year, the company’s plan for renewal was presented, it covers the main areas of activity, the implementation of which the company will continue purposefully this year as well.
AB Grigeo Klaipėda has assumed responsibility for its activities from the very beginning and will continue to assume it, therefore, in order to determine the fact and extent of environmental damage the Company engaged international experts from TIG Environmental, who conducted a month-long expert study last year and presented their findings.
“The priority of the company is to find out the impact on nature and restore the original state of the environment as soon as possible, therefore we have initiated a study conducted by foreign experts. According to the calculations and the findings of foreign experts, the area of the Curonian Lagoon affected by the wastewater of AB Grigeo Klaipėda must have been limited, and neither the fish nor zooplankton has been affected,” says T. Eikinas.
As soon as Grigeo Klaipėda received the findings of independent foreign experts, the company forwarded them to the Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Klaipėda District Prosecutor’s Office.
“Because we are not environmental experts, we do not have the expertise to evaluate this information. It was therefore forwarded to the responsible authorities in the hope that they would be able to continue the steps necessary for the investigation. We also continue to cooperate and maintain dialogue, provide all available information so that the investigation can be completed as soon as possible,” assures the head of AB Grigeo Klaipėda.
Last year, AB Grigeo Klaipėda also thoroughly reviewed its operational and management processes, and carried out a number of audits, which helped to correct weak points and move towards sustainability. For example the global quality assurance and risk management organization DNV GL, after an additional audit at AB Grigeo Klaipėda, has decided to return to the company the certification ISO 14001 certifying the compliance with the environmental standards, which was suspended on January 2020.
The recovery of this certificate is crucial for the company not only to achieve the set goals, but also to regain the trust of the public and its customers. “This is proof that not only have we learned from mistakes made in the past, but we have also made significant changes so that similar incidents would not happen in the company again. It is important for us not only to have this certificate, but also to base our activities on the requirements that it sets. Therefore, we are strengthening the team of AB Grigeo Klaipėda executives accordingly, as well as preparing and intending to implement a new sustainability strategy that will help achieve the set goals,” says T. Eikinas.
An audit was carried out by DNV GL, which established that AB Grigeo Klaipėda currently has a valid IPPC permit and a valid agreement with AB Klaipėdos Vanduo for the treatment of industrial wastewater, and therefore complies with legal requirements. The audit also assessed the effectiveness of the managerial analysis and internal audit processes, updates to the management system, control over the use of certification marks and certification references, and the objectives set by the company. This certificate is a recognition of the company’s maturity, reflecting its approach to sustainability, the environment, and social responsibility.
AB Grigeo Klaipėda also faced the challenges of wastewater treatment. These chalenges also affected the residents of Klaipėda city. As the factory’s wastewater treatment facilities in Dumpiai are still seized, at this time the wastewater from AB Grigeo Klaipėda is taken care of by AB Klaipėdos Vanduo. Their capacity is not technologically adapted for the treatment of company’s wastewater, therefore AB Grigeo Klaipėda has repeatedly had to suspend its operations. Also, when AB Grigeo Klaipėda was looking for solutions to reduce wastewater pollution, stronger unpleasant odor was felt near the factory in Klaipėda.
“Therefore, we have started to implement advanced technological solutions. Also, at the end of last year, we prepared and started to implement a construction technical project, on the basis of which the construction of wastewater networks was commenced. These networks will allow partial wastewater treatment at Dumpiai. This project would stabilize the loads of the AB Klaipėda Vanduo wastewater treatment plant and help to solve the problem of odors that got stronger in the suroundings of the AB Grigeo Klaipėda factory,” explains T. Eikinas.
The second of the three construction phases is currently underway. The construction solutions of wastewater networks, provided for in the technical project, are currently being installed are coordinated with all responsible institutions, and the construction permit was issued by the Administration of Klaipėda Region Municipality. Upon completion of the works, a wastewater transportation route would be built, connecting Dumpiai treatment plant with Wastewater Treatment Plant of AB Klaipėdos Vanduo. The treatment facilities at Dumpiai will start operating only after they have been approved by the relevant authorities.
“In carrying out this project, we strictly adhere to all the established conditions and requirements, and we inform the Klaipėda District Prosecutor’s Office about the work of each phase. However, in order for the facilities at Dumpiai could become fully operational, the company will also have to take care of the legalization of activities in the Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Permit and conclude a long-term wastewater management agreement with AB Klaipėdos Vanduo. Prohibitions imposed by law enforcement authorities on the use of existing treatment facilities must also be lifted. As this issue is relevant not only to AB Grigeo Klaipėda, but also to the community of the entire city, we very much hope for an objective approach of the responsible institutions to the entire situation,” says T. Eikinas.
2020 was indeed a year of change for AB Grigeo Klaipėda, accompanied by a wide range of works. The company has been audited by the international company AFRY, covering the areas of environment, occupational safety and health, and business processes. Following the audit, findings were formed and 48 recommendations were made, most of which have already been implemented, and the implementation of the rest are being completed. The company also reviewed and approved the new corporate governance structure, created the position of sustainability manager, and hired a competent sustainability manager The new management will be responsible for implementing the developed sustainability strategy. Aid in the amount of 0.5 million euros has been allocated to Klaipėda University for the development of environmental pollution solutions in the Klaipėda region and for the training of environmental specialists.
As the company was addressing the problem of odors in 2020, the odor detection program prepared by Buckman was launched in 2006 and the AirBorn system was introduced to neutralize not only the odors that are generated but also their causes. Together an odor monitoring system has been installed as well, consisting of an electric nose for measuring odours in the ambient air of the plant with a hydrometeorological data station. Finally, throughout the year, AB Grigeo Klaipėda regularly disinfected part of the pools to reduce microbiology and the odors of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, and 30,000 tons of compost were removed from Dumpiai.