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Armenia: Cleanup of Historical Landmark, Akhtala Monastery Grounds

the details…
Key pollutant

dermal exposure to soil

Cost of project
USAID, Armenia Fund USA
Project Partners
  • Ministry of Nature Protection
  • Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia

Akhtala, Armenia, is located in the north of the country, approximately 115 mi (185km) north of the capital, Yerevan. Akhtala is one of the most toxic lead sites Pure Earth experts have ever encountered.

The soil lead concentrations have been documented at up to 47,000 mg/kg, more than 100 times the US cleanup standard of 400 mg/kg. In 2012, it was found that 84% of approximately 500 children in Akhtala were at a high  risk of lead poisoning, according to Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan, Dean of the School of Public Health at American University of Armenia.

The cleanup project’s goal is to clean up the most contaminated part of Akhtala.  The site is the area of an Armenian Apostolic Church Monastery, a historic, community site where families hold picnics and children visit on school trips. The monastery was built in the area of a 10th century fortress and copper mine. The mining was active through the 13th century. The main church was built at the end of the 12th century and rebuilt in the 13th and 18th centuries. The monastery yard still contains contamination from former mining activities.

Armenia Fund USA has been funding the project preparations since 2017. Pure Earth’s team in Yerevan has worked with an architect, the Mayor of Akhtala, the local priest, the Armenian Ministry of Culture, and the Armenian Apostolic Church, for over a year to make this cleanup possible while preserving the structural and cultural integrity of the ancient church building.

Armenia’s Toxic 10th-Century Monastery (PHOTOS)