Hydro has no indications of leaks or overflow from Hydro Alunorte’s bauxite residue deposit areas. In order to release excess rainwater from the factory area, Alunorte released rainwater through the Canal Velho water canal. There is no indication of negative environmental impact from the release.
On 17 February, during the heavy rainfall that started the day before, and periodically between February 20-25, Hydro used a canal called Canal Velho to discharge pH treated rainwater from the factory area into the Pará river. The water was pH treated at the inlet to the canal, before it was released and then merged with water from the water treatment plant, as well as surface water from the Albras aluminium factory.
Rainwater from the refinery area may contain bauxite dust and traces of caustic soda, but the water had not been in contact with the bauxite residue deposit areas.
External review to conclude first week of April
“First of all, it is important to emphasize that we have no indication of leak or overflow from our bauxite residue deposit areas. We released rainwater from the factory area. The release was done as a controlled measure which we communicated to SEMAS, the state environmental agency,” says President and CEO, Svein Richard Brandtzæg.
He adds that Hydro, based on collected water samples, has no indication that the controlled release led to any negative environmental impact.
“We are now awaiting the report from internal task force, as well as the independent external environmental review by SGW Services, which will be presented in the first week of April,” says Brandtzæg.
He emphasizes that Hydro is committed to establishing a complete fact overview, and that the company’s main focus now is to protect and ensure that people at and around the plant feel safe and secure.
State environmental authorities notified
Canal Velho is a canal, adjacent to the water treatment plant in Alunorte, which occasionally also is used to discharge water separated from the bauxite slurry which is transported by pipeline from Hydro’s bauxite mine in Paragominas.
The controlled release of pH treated rainwater through this canal was done to relieve the water treatment plant during the heavy rain. The discharges of treated rainwater on February 17 and periodically between February 20-25 are not covered under the current license. Alunorte notified environmental authorities of Pará, SEMAS, twice during the current situation. Local communities were not informed as the rainwater was discharged into the Pará river.
The channel has also been used before to discharge rainwater in extreme rainfall events, last time in in May 2017. SEMAS was also notified after this event.
pH treated before discharge
The water was pH treated at the inlet to the canal, before it was released and then mixed with water treated in the water treatment plant. Rainwater in the refinery area may contain bauxite dust and traces of caustic soda.
The use of the canal and notifications are part of the ongoing internal investigations and the independent external review.
- In just 12 hours during February 16-17, the city of Barcarena, home to Hydro’s Alunorte alumina refinery, was hit by an extreme rainfall, flooding the region
- Hydro has commissioned Brazilian environmental consultancy SGW Services to perform an independent review of the water treatment and effluent management systems at the Alunorte alumina refinery
- The independent environmental review is part of actions announced by Hydro in response to the challenging situation at Alunorte, where authorities have ordered several measures due to concerns that the period of extraordinary rainfall had led to harmful spills into surrounding areas, including the nearby Pará river
- Among these measures by federal, state and local authorities, Alunorte has been ordered to reduce production by 50 percent and halt operations at its DRS2 bauxite residue disposal