First-ever smog alert called by Czech Hydrometeorological Institute

ArcelorMittal plant in Ostrava, photo: CTK

This week saw the country’s first-ever smog alert issued by the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, calling on plants in northern Moravia to cut production volume until atmospheric conditions improve. The institute has had the competency since last November under the Air Protection act and did not hesitate to act as the situation in Moravia worsened.

Extreme smog hung over parts of northern Moravia and then Bohemia this week, levels that simply could not be ignored, leaving the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute no choice but to order production plants in areas to scale back production. Poisonous particles in the air in parts of northern Moravia near industrial zones reached concentration levels of 700 or 800 micrograms per cubic metre per hour, obliterating the issued norm of 50. Earlier I spoke to Dr Josef Keder, a specialist at the Hydrometeorological Institute, who described the conditions:

ArcelorMittal plant in Ostrava,  photo: CTK
“The smog situation with such high concentration has repeated from time to time in the past in the Czech Republic but over the last few years the situation has grown worse. It is of course very dangerous for peoples’ health, because particles can penetrate into the respiratory tract, into the lungs, and irritate the tract… Sometimes carcinogenic items or micro-organisms which can cause this disease can bind to the particles. That is the threat.”

As a result large plants in the area, including Ostrava, cut down production until freezing weather conditions and inversion improved; some reduced operations up to 50 percent to lessen emissions. Věra Breiová, the spokeswoman for ArcelorMittal plant in Ostrava spoke to public broadcaster Czech TV:

“ArcelorMittal Ostrava reacted immediately after conditions worsened in the region. We cut down the use of our sintering furnaces used for

Věra Breiová
agglomeration of iron ore. That is the technology that is the biggest contributor to the emission of particle pollutants.”

New norms for microscopic particles were introduced in the Czech Republic at the end of 2009 but not all plants have passed guidelines yet in responding to extreme smog levels; all complied with the smog alert. In addition, the Hydrometeorological Institute’s Josef Keder says local authorities have the power not only to appeal to but limit other polluters, such as those behind the wheel. Dr Keder again:

“Drivers are also a part of the issue and local authorities also have the possibility to take some measures, even stopping traffic.” As of Thursday the situation in northern Moravia has markedly improved but many are worried it’s only a question of time before heavy smog in the area will come to the fore again.