Media: Ventspils has a coal dust problem. Who is to blame?

Members of the opposition in Ventspils City Council admit that undesirable side-effects from Ventspils Commercial Port’s activities still exist and need to be dealt with. However, this goal cannot be accomplished without a constructive dialogue and cooperation between companies working at the port, the port’s authority and municipal administration.

There is no cooperation to speak of at the moment, and intimidation methods used by the city’s and freeport’s managers do not help resolve the problem, rather worsen it in the process, wrote after meeting with members of Ventspils City Council opposition.

Deputies Aivis Landmanis and Ivars Landmanis, who have worked in Ventspils City Council for several terms, say the problem with coal dust has always existed at the port, «only its public and demonstrative resolution has varied depending on who had the say and financial benefit from companies handling coal cargoes». «While Aivars Lembergs continued (according to evidence gathered by the prosecution) to reap benefits from Ventspils Commercial Port and other companies through his network of offshores, the city’s administration remained disinterested in solving this issue. However, once Lembergs lost influence of port companies, suddenly it started to stink badly,» writes.

«While Lembergs was receiving benefits from nearly every port terminal, no official were finding dust or the smell a worrisome problem. At the time neither city council employees, nor specialists sensed any problems at the port. Does this mean the city had no dust or smell problems? Nothing of the sort, I assure you! It is simply that Lembergs’ companies were allowed to do as they pleased as long as money flowed in the ‘right pockets’. Even this time companies loyal to Lembergs neither stink nor produce dust. One example worth mentioning is SIA Bio-Venta, in relation to which residents wrote in the comment section of Ventas Balss the following [unedited]: What about the oily stains on windows??? Do you really think residents are not forced to breathe in the oily fumes??? It stinks like a burnt porridge…. like A CORPSE!!! It’s getting hard not to vomit… but it seems we ‘mere mortals’ have to suffer through this for the sake of our masters’ wallets…’» notes that «the people who caused the dust problem – Aivars Lembergs, Jānis Vītoliņš, Guntis Blumbergs and Didzis Ošenieks – have decided to commence a theatrical effort to end it». «These people are responsible for creating terminals the way they are now. They also organized the construction of an oil-loading facility and a bioethanol plant, as well as cutting down Standzene forest for the needs of the enormous factory and establishing a fish production factory’s smokery in the city.»

The portal also mentions that «ever since Latvia recovered its independence’ the aforementioned officials [with some exceptions] have been in charge of Ventspils city and Ventspils Freeport Authority, and institutions responsible for the city’s and freeport’s development strategy are responsible for everything that happens in Ventspils, including the dust and smell».

«The dust from coal terminals is not the only environmental problem in Ventspils. Looking back at Jāņis Vītoliņš’s attack on pensioner Ivars Jansons, suing him for defamation after the old man reminded him of the pollution coming from the fish processing plant, it was Aivis Landmanis and his colleagues who stepped in for Jansons, and Vītoliņš lost the case,» the portal reminds.

Another example is the fight organized by Landmanis brothers and Vladislavs Šafranskis against adding more than 100 ha of Staldzeme forest’s territory to industrial zone of the port. «More than 1,500 signatures were collected, and ultimately ignored by officials. All solutions proposed by opposition members in regards to limiting the smell, dust and noise were rejected. Proposals to change the city’s territorial planning and gradually distance the port area from the residential area also went ignored. Instead I was decided to allow construction of massive hotel and SPA centres close to the port,» the media adds.

«All this leads to a question: is there really no attempt to acquire more ‘voluntary compulsory donations’ there? This was the case for years in SIA Ventspils nafta termināls for decades and even partially so in spring 2017, when certain officials managed to cut off millions worth of fertilizers from the company. Where else have you ever heard of decades’ worth of investor influencing and intimidation that has led to us being left with no coal to speak of?» Ventspils media writes.

The portal stresses: «It is clear the problem requires an immediate and rational solution. The first step would be sprinkling streets, as it is done in Riga. Of course, sprinkling means sprinkling, not creating a semblance of a water mist using street-cleaning machines».

«However, if unusually hot summer and northern winds are used for political populism and if there are suspicions of illegal and corruptive activities, the only solution is replacing standing officials in the municipal administration and Freeport. Only then will there be any hope for a constructive dialogue and effective solutions,» concluded after meeting with opposition deputies.

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