Landfills in the former chemical plant OHIS are the hottest ecological point in N.Macedonia, registered on the world ecological map

Thousands of tonnes of waste for decades stand in the yard of the former Macedonian chemical giant from the Balkan Framework, OHIS-Naum Naumovski Borche. This factory, which was the former motor force of the Macedonian economy and factor for the development of the industry, today is a dangerous place where 50 thousand tons of carcinogenic waste is stored. In the yard of this factory are located two landfills, with 10,000 tons of poisonous lindane in the smallest and 40,000 tons in a larger landfill containing lindane and other poisonous substances, and there is also a third landfill for which it is not exactly known where it is located.

Lindane from OHIS connected with PM 10 is equal to mass poisoning

OHIS landfills were created in the mid-1970s, after the launch of a production line manufacturing laundry detergent and the famous “Biljana”. Landfills contain a variety of toxic substances, including the dangerous lindane that is very toxic and is placed in the group of carcinogenic substances and persistent organic pollutants in the Persistent organic pollutants group. The Lindane is included in the Stockholm Convention in 2009 when it is classified in Group A, a substance that must be eliminated and ceased to be produced. What is known is that the lindane, like pesticide, was used in Macedonian agriculture until 2009, when it is banned for use.

The previous production was left untreated open on the facility grounds, without preliminary preparation of the substrate. A few years later, due to the unbearable odor of the pesticide, the landfills were covered with about 20,000 tons of soil, and together with the lindane and other waste and harmful substances contaminated the soil.

Part of the OHIS yard where one of the landfills is seen

Over time, these substances, with the help of rains, penetrated deep into the ground and polluted the groundwater, and the wind permeated the earth every day in the form of dust, and thus also polluted the air. Lindane has the ability to bond with PM10 particles, which in Skopje are higher up to 10 times the permissible limit, especially during the winter period, and PM2.5 particles above the permissible limit. There is mercury located in the part where the electrolysis plant was and it will be subject to future cleaning. The World Bank report cites Macedonia as the fifth-largest country in terms of annual deaths caused by polluted air, and PM10 particles cause long-term respiratory infections, allergies, and asthma. In the last five years, lung cancer has increased by 50 percent. Acute exposure to PM particles causes changes in coagulation and platelet activation leading to heart disease. (Sources: Air Quality in the Republic of Northern Macedonia / Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning  http://air.moepp.gov.mk/?page_id=170 World Bank concentration report for PM2.5 particles: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.PM25.MC.M3? location = MK)

All these harmful substances, along with lindane, cause damage to the liver and kidneys, act on the cardiovascular system, cause reproductive disorders and developmental defects in children. Lindane and other HCH isomers, just like dioxins, are deposited in the body’s fats, accumulated and transmitted through breast milk to infants. They cross the placenta and cause disorders of the fetus in development.

Cleaning should begin next year

Initial calculations indicate that between 40 and 260 million euros will be needed to decontaminate landfills. The process of clearing this deposited carcinogen poison in the plant’s circle would last from 3 to 5 years. The Office for Persistent Organic Pollutants at the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning informed us that the small landfill with 10,000 tonnes of material will begin to be cleaned by the middle of 2019, for which funds have been provided through the Global Environment Facility, in cooperation with the Kingdom of Norway, the Government and the UN-UNOPS Project Services Office.

There are three types of problem-solving – biological remediation, thermal resorption or material excavation and carrying abroad. We have made calculations for each of them. Depending on how much funds will be collected through the Fund, that method will be selected, “the government informed.

OHIS landfills have found themselves on the world ecological map

The landfills got the status of the hottest ecological point in Macedonia and found themselves on the world ecological map. In poisonous substances in these dumps, in addition to the pesticide lindane, are mercury, monochloroacetic acid, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, polyacrylics, esters, PVC powder, and many other substances that are not known where they are and are stored at all. These substances are a group of organic chemical compounds that are extremely toxic and very difficult to decompose in nature.

Prof. Dr. Trajche Stafilov from the Institute of Chemistry at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. „These substances are a group of organic chemical compounds that are extremely toxic and very difficult to decompose in nature“

Substances persist for decades when they are discharged into the environment, they pass into the groundwater and into the soil, so they become an integral part of the food, and are present in the air. They have a very harmful effect on human health, but also on animals and wildlife in general. Therefore, within the United Nations, the so-called Stockholm Convention. The prominent prof. Dr. Trajche Stafilov from the Institute of Chemistry at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics reveals that R.S. Macedonia has signed this convention in 2005, while lindane as a pesticide has been included in the 2009 POPs group. The States Parties to this Convention undertake to provide periodic reports on these substances, aim to prohibit their production, but also to prevent their inadvertent creation. So far, nearly a hundred countries have signed it. As additional research is carried out and information is received about the harmfulness of a substance, the list of chemicals is added and increased. Since then, each member state has to take care of solving its problems with the lindane. explains the renowned professor Stafilov, who has been conducting various examinations throughout the country for years.

Biljana is the famous detergent produced in Biljana detergent is the famous detergent that was produced in the manufacturing line Biljana

As OHIS has been spread,  poisonous substances have been spread including lindane

The OHIS plant was established in 1962. In 1970 he joined the French chemical company Rhone Poulenc (now Aventis). The Macedonian chemical giant from the Balkan framework was a holding company with 5 large chemical factories and 8 other companies, produced commodities from basic chemistry, plant protection chemicals, insecticides and pesticides, paints and varnishes, E-glass, pipes, granulates, cosmetics, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, including tubes and foils, polymers, adhesives, artificial textile fibers, paper and cardboard, E-glass fibers, jars, bins, notebooks, transport boxes, mounting equipment, detergents, among which the popular Macedonian ” Biljana “.

By producing all these things, the plant also produced waste that was stored in the yard of the plant for years, primarily because of the low environmental awareness, although it was known for the harmfulness of the health of this substance, says Petre Bibovski, a pensioner who has been employed in Ohio in 1963, three years after the establishment of the plant.

“Lindane and other waste materials were stored right next to the Biljana plant. In the 80s of the last century, there was an attempt to displace the lindane from the yard of the factory and began to be worn in Pelenitsa, near the monastery “Redeemer Rusa Sreda” in Drachevo. A landfill was dug on the left side of the monastery’s gate and began to pour the lindane. But when they learned of this, they immediately stopped. The government did not allow this resettlement of hazardous waste to continue. They say about 8000 tonnes of waste material is syphilis there, but the exact figure is not known. And there for years, the children from the schools went to organized excursions, says Petre Bibovski, who lives in the settlement Dracevo, only a few kilometers away from the factory.

There was also a second attempt to dispose of poisonous substances that occurred in the Pintija neighborhood, which is closest to the OHIS plant. The lindane has been poured near the pumping stations for water, supplied the inhabitants of Drachevo. A short time ago, a sample of water was taken to analysis in Slovenia, where the results were terrible. They immediately shut down these pumps and built new pumps at a higher altitude. For lindane and the by-products existed very high interest, were immediately consumed, were very demanded, they were exported to Western Europe, Russia … But the whole air around the plant where it was produced and wider, tells the pensioner Bibovski.

“OHIS was a great factory, a very powerful giant. There worked thousands of workers, many engineers. Today I’m sorry to see her. Whenever I pass by her, her eyes trample and I cry for that once powerful beauty, which is now totally neglected and abandoned, says Bibovski, who spent his service life as head of the OHIS Personnel Service.

Petre Bibovski, pensioner: OHIS was a great factory, where thousands of workers were worked. The once powerful beauty, today is totally neglected and abandoned

Despite proven contamination, OHIS’s yard gets new tenants

The chemical industry giant after the breakup of Yugoslavia failed to catch the pace and restructure. He was drowning and quenched slowly for 25 years until the factory received a bankruptcy trustee. From this autumn, the company “Chemical Engineering” from Skopje, the new owner of a part of the OHIS property, more precisely what was left of OHIS, without the property that has been sold in enforcement procedures so far. The price paid for that part of the property was 7.1 million, excluding VAT. The Central Registry says that behind “Chemical Engineering” stands a certain Gorjan Maksimovski and a company from the South African (Steel and pressure engineering).

Despite proven contamination, OHIS’s yard gets new tenants – small firms that rent out the old hangars. We deliver an advertisement, taken from Market 3:

There is a hall for rent in OHIS of 1600 m2, a renovated set with new industrial flooring, natural lighting, technical water, drinking water, excellent insulation with 20 cm insulation, no moisture, 600 kW electricity, fire service.

The stored waste becomes even more toxic during the elections

Although stored waste has been stored for years and has been there for decades, at the time of the country’s elections, it has become more and more dangerous. Thus, the lindane gets heavy and serves as an argument of a particular political party to attack another political party, usually in power, even though politicians know very well that this problem for the country is very large so that it can solve it themselves. So the green party DOM tried to collect points, calling the State Environmental Inspectorate to inspect 100 tons of hazardous chemicals that are highly toxic, flammable and explosive and are stored in the yard of the old factory.

The entrance gate of the monastery St. Prepolovenie Rusa Sreda, in the settlement Drachevo, where for years schools organized excursions for students, besides a landfill with lindane

They also pointed out to the public that if an environmental disaster arose, it would hit Skopje and the entire Vardar valley. In addition to the famous pesticide lindane, there are also other dangerous chemicals stored: 35 tons of acrylonitrile monomer, which can destroy the entire animal and plant world along the Vardar River, 20 tons of active substances for pesticide production, which are very toxic if they leak into the soil, 2.5 tons of chlorine in containers with dilapidated material, which after its expiry can cause serious problems for human health, especially after the respiratory and cardiovascular system.

Photographs: Marjan Trajkovski, Gordana Blazhevska, Farmahem, Macedonian ecological society