Hydro Challenges State Tests Finding Heavy Metal Pollution at Alunorte Alumina Refinery

Though immediately challenged by Norsk Hydro, a Brazilian federal government study says that the waters in the vicinity of Alumina do Norte do Brasil S.A.’s (Alunorte) refining plant show elevated levels of heavy metals.

In comments to domestic media Wednesday, public health researcher Marcelo Lima of Brazil’s Health Ministry organ Evandro Chagas Institute said that the organization’s sampling of surface waters in the area showed higher than normal levels of aluminium, lead, and other contaminants.

Immediately upon the study’s release, Norsk Hydro issued its own statement, alleging “serious technical and methodological failings” in the Institute’s work, and described inconsistencies in a February study of the area’s surface waters.

Though the Institute later admitted problems with the February study, which it said were limited to typographical errors, the findings were still used in judicial proceedings that eventually led to the state mandating that the facility halve production until the problems alleged could be rectified.

Although its own testing didn’t detect elevated levels of pollutants in the area, Hydro commissioned a pair of independent studies to determine what, if anything, was damaged after 8 inches of rain fell on the area in 12 hours last month. The firm said that it would issue its own conclusions based upon those investigations by the ninth of next month.

In a press release issued on its website Wednesday, Hydro said it continues to work with state environmental authorities, but the firm maintained its stance that there hasn’t been “any significant or lasting impact on the environment” as a result of the February flooding.

Beginning production in 1995, Alunorte is the world’s largest alumina refinery. Boasting a nameplate capacity of 6.2 million metric tons per annum, the plant supplies alumina to buyers in Brazil, the Middle East, North America, and Europe.



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