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A Toxic Waste Processing Plant Will Be Built in Kazakhstan

Its future location is still unknown

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Before 2021, Kazakhstan will be donated a facility for disposal of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) worth $3 million. This was reported by the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the republic.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) will aid Kazakhstan in the destruction of its toxic waste by sending equipment to its selected partner, Ecolux-As LLP. The company has to find a land plot which meets the environmental requirements and provide it with infrastructure and easily accessible routes.

“At present, POPs will be processed by incineration, without releasing harmful emissions into the environment. The design capacity of the plant will be 1,000 tons per year”, said Mansur Oshurbayev, director of the department of state policy and waste management within the Ecology Ministry.

After becoming party to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, Kazakhstan pledged to destroy POP-containing waste by 2028. Such waste is present in the country in the form of pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These poisonous chemical compounds suppress immunity, as well as many bodily functions, and cause mutations.

Today Kazakhstan does not produce PCBs; the existing inventory has been in storage since the Soviet era. In the past, they were widely used as a dielectric in electrical equipment for transformers and capacitors. According to the 2018 inventory data, the country has accumulated 743 tons of PCB-containing waste and 3,800 tons and 4,100 liters of obsolete pesticides.

“Ecolux-As will dispose of a 303-ton batch of PCB-containing waste, free of charge, which was removed from the former Daryal-U radar station. Then Ecolux-As will be able to provide paid services for toxic waste processing to other companies. In total, 36 companies in 12 regions of Kazakhstan have stocks of PCB-containing waste,” Oshurbayev explained.

Previously, companies shipped such waste by air for disposal abroad.

As a reminder, in July 2020 six thousand capacitors filled with PCBs were removed from the warehouses of the former Daryal-U radar station located in the water protection zone of Lake Balkhash. Their further presence on the site risked an environmental catastrophe. After re-packaging, the toxic equipment was delivered to the Ecolux-As warehouses in Stepnogorsk.

According to Mansur Oshurbayev, the maximum storage period for PCB-containing waste in Stepnogorsk is two and a half years. However, due to the public outcry, the city akimat (council) is negotiating with Ecolux-As on the re-transportation of contaminated capacitors. If they reach an agreement, a corresponding memorandum will be drawn.

Initially, 16,000 capacitors were stored at Daryal-U. In 2007 and 2008, 1.1 billion tenge (about $9 million by the then exchange rate) was allocated from the budget for their export and disposal abroad. Unfortunately, a third of the contaminated equipment remained at the station since 800 million tenge (about $6.7 million) from the allotted sum was stolen, which came to light in Kazakhstan’s bringing to trial and, eventually, convicting former Minister of Environment, Nurlan Iskakov. Consequently, he was sentenced to four years in prison without confiscation of property.

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