New EU Laws on Major Threats from Industrial Plants
New rules that enter into force today will see EU citizens better informed about major threats posed by industrial plants in their immediate vicinity. The rules are part of an update of the Seveso Directive.
The Directive obliges Member States to draw up emergency plans for areas surrounding industrial installations where very large quantities of dangerous substances are to be found.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Seveso III will mean better protection against major accidents for citizens and the environment. It will also mean that citizens are better informed, and more involved in land-use planning decisions."
By June 2015, Cyprus and other member states have to implement the new rules on better access for citizens to information about risks resulting from activities of nearby industrial installations, and about how to behave in the event of an accident.
There will be stricter standards for inspections of establishments to ensure more effective enforcement of safety rules.
And from now on, public information about risks must be made available electronically.
Emergency plans for industrial plants
All establishments covered by the legislation will need to provide information about how alerts will be sounded, and about how citizens should act in the event of a major accident. When an accident happens, the relevant authorities will need to inform anyone likely to be affected by it and the main measures taken to address it. Changes to land-use planning laws will see the introduction of an appropriate "safety" distance in plans for new establishments and infrastructure near existing establishments.
Procedural requirements for public consultation on projects, plans and programmes have been tightened. When authorities and establishments assess major accident potentials and adopt measures to address this, they will need to take better account of potential increased risks due to the proximity with other industrial sites and potential repercussions on nearby installations.
The Seveso legislation on the control of major-accident hazards dates back to 1982. It obliges Member States to ensure that all operators covered by the Directive have a policy in place to prevent major accidents. Operators handling dangerous substances above certain thresholds must regularly inform the public likely to be affected by an accident, providing safety reports, a safety management system and an internal emergency plan.
Seveso legislation is considered to have been instrumental in reducing the likelihood and consequences of major accidents involving dangerous substances, as the number of reported accidents fell by 10% between 2000 and 2008, notwithstanding an increase in the number of establishments.
Vassiliko Industrial Area
As the number of industrial plants increases in Vassiliko, the coastline between Limassol and Larnaca, the likelihood of accidents at these plants increases. One stark example is that of the explosion at the naval base of Evangelos Florakis in 2011. The base is located next to the Vassiliko power plant, which was critically damaged in the explosion and buckled four massive containers of fuel.
The area is also home to Vassiliko Cement Works, which has been criticised for polluting the air in the area by burning dangerous waste. The new plant being set up by oil distributor Vitol brings yet another industrial installation into the area, which borders agricultural land that is a major source of plant and animal food sold to consumers.
Residents in the villages of Maroni have told CyprusNewsReport.com that they are worried about the likelihood of industrial accidents and pollution, and that they do not have access to clear information from the actual plants themselves.
The hopes are that the new laws will encourage social responsibility and sensitivity to residents, as well as more transparency from the industrial areas around the island.
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