Coking plant, Silesia, Poland

Polish residents finally able to breathe clean air as coking plant closes

Residents of Czerwionka-Leszczyny, a town in Silesia, Poland, have succeeded in closing the town’s highly polluting coking plant. With the support of ClientEarth, the local community will now finally be able to breathe clean air.

Last year, the residents of Czerwionka-Leszczyny and ClientEarth applied to the Regional Inspectorate for Environmental Protection (WIOS) requesting the plant close as soon as possible. In May, after discussions with the residents of the town and ClientEarth, the owner of Debiensko coking plant confirmed it would stop operating by today, 4 September 2018.

However, in August, benzene concentrations of 262 μg/ m3 were recorded in the town. The WIOS and the prosecutor’s office proceeded to investigate the source of the leak, which was believed to originate from the coking plant.

Following the investigation, the owner of the coking plant decided to shut it down early last Friday – a few days ahead of the September date.

ClientEarth lawyer Kamila Drzewicka said: “The people of Czerwionka-Leszczyny have relentlessly called for the air quality in the town to be improved. With ClientEarth’s support, they have managed to eliminate the source they considered to be the most harmful.”

The residents have been complaining about poor air quality and increased incidences of cancer in the area for years. Hourly benzene levels had reached over 100 μg/m3. In 2017, Czerwionka-Leszczyny residents filed over 100 applications to the WIOS, demanding immediate closure of the coke oven furnace.

ClientEarth has supported local residents with their requests and subsequent appeals. In December, ClientEarth launched a campaign on air pollution in Czerwionka-Leszczyny and industrial emissions in Poland.

Leszek Machura, a local environmental activist said: “The coking plant has finally been closed, which makes us very happy and will have a positive impact on our health. After years of living in a cloud of benzene we can finally breathe!”

ClientEarth has highlighted the crucial role civil society and NGOs can play in protecting the environment, particularly in reducing air pollution. Drzewicka added: “Citizens should demand that the competent state authorities, businesses and the public work together to protect the environment as it is a common good from which we all benefit.”

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Michal Zablocki, ClientEarth