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Fire at the landfill in Przylepa. Why did air quality testing stations fail to detect toxic smoke?

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Could the air quality measurement stations “miss” the gigantic fire of the hazardous waste landfill in Zielona Góra? – Yes, if the right conditions exist – say the experts we asked about the indications that arouse distrust in some of the city’s residents. They indicate that the air quality monitoring system in Poland is too poorly developed and we never learn about potential threats.

The Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection has two air testing stations in Zielona Góra – at Krótka Street (in the east of the city) and Wyszyńskiego Street (in the west). The latter is definitely closer to the hall in Zielona Góra Przylep, where dangerous substances that caught fire were stored. The firefighting operation continued from Saturday to Sunday evening. During it, clouds of smoke billowed up, which terrified the inhabitants. The greater the fact that on the website of the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection dedicated to air quality, it can be seen that both stations in Zielona Góra are marked in gray – which means that the air quality index is not available here.

Read also: They assured about safety. “They sit in masks and say that there is no threat, it arouses emotions”

The network was in an uproar – information appeared that the stations were turned off so that you could not see how much the explosion of the ecological bomb in Przylep polluted the air in the city. It turns out that the gray color does not mean that the stations belonging to CIEP are not working – they constantly recorded the concentration of 2.5 and 5 PM in the air. This data is shared with third parties who report on the state of the air in the area on an ongoing basis. The readings of both stations in Zielona Góra show that at the time of the firefighting operation, the registers were normal.

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Similar data was also recorded by other private sensors in Zielona Góra. On this basis, it could be considered that on the day of the fire and its extinguishing, it was a good time to relax in the fresh air or go for a run.

Air condition in Zielona Góra – CIEP stations and private stationswww.smognet.pl

“The results obtained at the Zielona Góra stations yesterday and today do not indicate any exceedances of the normative values. The measured values ​​do not differ from the values ​​obtained before the fire in Przylepa” – the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection announced on Sunday in its communiqué.

How is this possible? Dr Jakub Bartyzel, a physicist from the physics and environment team at the AGH University of Science and Technology Stanisława Staszica in Krakow says that this does not necessarily mean that the results from the station are wrong.

The air quality index is not available in Zielona GóraCIEP

What’s going to go up

The expert points out that at this stage he does not know the exact results or analyzes from the scene. It relies on general principles that could lead to results that may surprise you.

– During combustion, smoke is released, in which there are toxic chemicals, there is also dust in them. It should be noted, however, that the smoke is hot and therefore rises. It is in our interest that this process is not interrupted, he explains.

Why? Because the higher the smoke reaches, the more effectively the harmful substances will be dispersed in the atmosphere.

– They will fall, of course, because nothing in nature is lost. Relationships will fall within a radius of up to several hundred kilometers. The most important thing, however, is that their concentration should be low enough not to pose a threat to the environment – emphasizes Dr. Bartyzel.

Fire at the landfill in PrzylepaPAP/Lech Muszyński

Wind? Better not

Smoke in ideal conditions – as the expert says – can rise for several kilometers. However, this process can be disrupted by the weather. – The worst phenomenon is temperature inversion. It is a phenomenon where warm air is above cool air. The rising smoke cools down and then doesn’t go up because it’s already too cold. It falls to the ground in high concentration – explains the scientist.

Inversion, however, rarely occurs in the summer. This phenomenon can be observed more often in winter, which causes Polish cities to suffocate in smog.

The expert emphasizes that usually during large fires, residents count on strong winds that will disperse pollution. Dr. Jakub Bartyzel emphasizes, however, that this is a wrong idea.

– Strong wind makes it difficult for pollutants to reach a high altitude, which in turn can have very unpleasant consequences for residents and nature – emphasizes our interlocutor.

What the station “can’t see”

But let’s go back to Zielona Góra. Why did the stations not detect the increased concentration of dust?

– It could be that the smoke was lifted vertically up in a small area. It is in such a situation that the optimal phenomenon, which endangered the safety of the inhabitants to the smallest extent, says Dr. Bartyzel.

This could mean that the poisonous substances never reached the sensors at Krótka and Wyszyńskiego Streets or other installed in the city.

It is possible that it was luck that made the ecological bomb did not explode in the face of the residents – the expert reports. He points out, however, that the firemen and people in the immediate vicinity of the burning hall were most exposed to the danger of smoke poisoning – hence some were wearing masks to protect the respiratory tract.

What happened to the smoke from Zielona Góra? Anna Dworakowska from the Krakow Smog Alarm says that we may never find out.

Read also: After the landfill fire, the president speaks of a “catastrophe”, firefighters are still on site

– Poland has about 300 dust testing stations. About 150 of them test the concentration of benzopyrene, and there are even fewer, about 100, who test ozone. It should be noted that we meet all EU directives and requirements regarding the number of stations. This, however, does not mean that the network is sufficient – emphasizes Dworakowska.

He points out that in many towns there is almost no air control.

– Stations are missing in many smaller towns that struggle with high air pollution. Among other things, thanks to our efforts, two new stations appeared in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship, in Nowy Targ and Zabierzów. They regularly record record concentrations. There are many more places like this in the country.

Air quality unavailable but…

A separate issue is why the results of the air quality index cannot be found on the website of the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection.

– The summer air quality index is calculated only for those stations where ozone concentrations are monitored, and there are about 100 such stations, as I have already mentioned. The effect of this is that the index is not provided for other stations. But if we want to check the concentration of particulate matter, we can do it on the CIEP website by checking the appropriate box – Dworakowska reports.

Władysław Dajczak, the Lubuskie Voivode, points out, however, that air quality control in Zielona Góra is not limited to two stations that have not registered anything disturbing.

– As we have been repeating for two days that these tests conducted continuously, tell us that there is no threat to the residents, it all worked out, and let me remind you that these tests were conducted by really outstanding specialists with excellent equipment – said the voivode.

The commander of the Lubuskie fire brigade, nadbryg. Patrick Maruszak. – Residents of Przylepu can feel safe, they can use outdoor areas, we do not confirm hazardous substances in the air in our research – he said on Monday.

Detailed results of the samples are to be made public soon.

Voivod: only one case of a person who felt bad

The voivode admitted at the Monday’s conference at noon that “the greatest joy for us was that during this extremely difficult, complicated action, none of the participants in this action, i.e. firefighters, suffered any damage (health)”. “Nothing happened that would have been an accident in extinguishing this fire,” he said.

Dajczak said that “there is only one case of a person who stayed on plots near the site of this event”. – She felt bad, she was hospitalized, but after two hours she was released from the hospital, so no one from the residents suffered because of it – he assured.

Dajczak: research conducted on a continuous basis tells us that there is no threat to the inhabitantsTVN24

Main photo source: TVN24

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