Armenia (Abovyan):
Assessment – Municipal Solid Waste and Former Industrial Dumpsite

the details…
Key pollutant
Population affected
Date started
Nov-Dec 2019

A Preliminary Site Assessment was completed at the Abovyan dumpsite, located in the center of Armenia about 10 kilometers northeast of Yerevan. The Abovyan dumpsite (with approximate size of 20 hectares) has been operating since 1963 and is the largest dumpsite in the Kotayk Marz (District).

The Abovyan solid waste dump site was selected for detailed assessment because of the declared government plans to move the location of the landfill and eventually clean up the area. The purpose of the preliminary assessment was to identify main pollutants, their distribution and potential exposure of people to toxic substances.  The conducted assessment identified several contaminants at the site including heavy metals and organic compounds. Main pollutants include lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium.

The soil sampling was performed on-site using a handheld XRF analyzer. The project team also collected soil samples for doing laboratory analyses. In total, 764 measurements via XRF were taken, among which 759 (99%) had lead Pb concentration, 331 (43%) had Arsenic As concentration, 750 (98% ) had Chromium Cr (total) concentration, 121 (16%) had Mercury Hg concentration, 764 (100%) had Zinc Zn concentration, 764 (100%) had Copper Cu concentration and 13 (1.7%) had Cadmium Cd concentration, exceeding the maximum allowable concentrations. The maximum concentration of Pb in the present study was 1642 times higher than the maximum allowable concentration of 32 mg/kg according to the Armenian National Standard on soil.

The dumpsite collects household waste – MSW (paper, glass, rags, food waste, food packaging, etc.), industrial waste (metal scrap, leather, fur, cloth, plastic, etc.); construction/demolition waste (brick, boards, cement, metal structures, etc.), E-waste and hazardous waste. These different kinds of solid waste mix and are subject to open burning, wind and precipitation. This results in contamination of the areas with various toxic substances.

The population of Abovyan city is about 43,000 people. Some of them may visit the area with the purpose of dumping waste or collecting materials for recycling. It was observed that the people were working without any personal protective equipment and could be affected by continuous exposure to contaminated soil, dust, and smoke from open burning.

The high concentrations of heavy metals and benzo[a}pyrene is a concern from public health point of view, as exposure to these substances can lead to different health issues, including fatigue, depression, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, myalgia, cough, dyspnea, neurological symptoms, increase the cancer risk etc. This is especially worrisome as the inhabitants of Abovyan city (population 43,000) visit the dumpsite periodically. Additionally, 20 individuals who work at the dumpsite are systematically exposed to these substances.

The project team met and shared the findings with the Ministry of Territorial Administration, the Ministry of Environment and other appropriate government agencies.

In 2021, an online lecture for 17 students from the American University of Armenia (AUA) was held  on following topic: “Detailed Site Assessment: Purpose and Method.” A field trip to Abovyan dumpsite followed on March 28, where students took measurements using an XRF, collected soil samples, GPS measurements, etc. The team returned to the dumpsite two more times for followup assessments, collecting sediment samples from the channel – downstream, midstream and upstream.  The team also used an excavator to dig 3 trenches in the dumpsite –first 2.8 meters deep, 2nd – 1.5 meters deep and the 3rd one – 1 meter deep. This was done so the team could take measurements via XRF in different depths of the trenches.

The team then met with the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development to share findings from the Toxic Sites Identification Program and preliminary assessments. Possible Risk Reduction Approaches suitable for Abovyan dumpsite were also presented.