Yesterday, residents of Akhtala once again called Hetq, raising the alarm about wastes materials flowing into the Debed River from the Akhtala Enrichment Plant.
When we visited the site, we saw what they meant. When we approached the confluence of the Getak and Debed rivers, a plant worker manning the pumping station tried to prevent us from taking pictures of the waste flow.
“They told me not to permit anyone from approaching the river,” the worker said.
It seems that plant management has no problems with allowing its wastes to flow into the Getak and then Debed Rivers. It’s become a part of the process to produce copper ore.
We also found out that residents of Building #1 in Akhtala’s Barit neighbourhood maintain pig pens along the Getak. The pigs drink from the polluted waters. The day we arrived, residents had the pigs penned in their sheds. They tried to conceal any connection between the animals and the toxic water.
Local resident Ashot told us that the pigs spend all day wallowing in the water. Evidence of this was the fact that the pigs’ snouts were the same color of the toxic-laden water.
As to the possible health effects of the water on the animals, Greens Union President Hakob Sanasaryan noted that animals drinking water full of tailings material store up heavy metals in their bodies. “When consumed, these metals are transferred to people,” he said.
Our investigation revealed that local pigs are slaughtered and then sold to Alaverdi butchers and meat vendors who set up shop along the roadside. The meat also gets sold to local eateries.
There’s a large quantity of livestock in Alaverdi that feeds off the tailings waters and none of the meat is ever inspected for safety.
All our efforts to obtain information regarding the Akhtala Plant’s discharged tailings have been fruitless. Plant Deputy Director Orbeli Tarminyan doesn’t answer our calls.
The Akhtala Municipality has shown a penchant for inactivity on the matter as well.
Hetq has contacted Lori Regional Governor Artour Nalbandyan about the environmental and health risks in Akhtala.
He promised to look why the Plant was discharging so much waste into the local environment.