Kyrgyzstan (Naiman) – Mercury Cleanup
The project is about remediation of the irrigation channel contaminated with mercury in Naiman Village. The contaminated soil and sediments were removed from the irrigation channel and transported to the tailings, which are located about 18 km away from the site.
The town of Naiman was established as a workers’ settlement for Uluu-Too mercury mining factory. The factory produced mercury and antimony for many years and is now closed. The irrigation channel in Naiman village got contaminated with mercury from workers bringing it home to their houses from the factory with the hopes of selling it. When sales failed, the workers dumped the mercury into the channel. The irrigation channel runs along the main road of Naiman Village and the mercury can easily be seen at the bottom of it. The water from the channel is used for irrigation of gardens and for drinking by animals. Water from the irrigation ditch entered the gardens and vegetable gardens of local residents. Children were observed near the channel or even digging out metallic mercury and playing with it.
Based on the results of the assessment, which indicated that high levels of mercury were present in the irrigation channel, a plan was adopted to clean up 650 meters of the channel along the street in length. The main purpose was to take out the upper contaminated layer from the bottom of the ditch (about 150 tons) of soil. Polluted soil was transported to the tailings of Uluu-Too mine.
The work was conducted on June 18-22, 2017. Local residents were hired to perform the clean up, special equipment and labor from among them.
The Administration of Naiman Village was very supportive of the plan to clean up the area. The Direction of Kadamzhay Antimony Factory allowed the remediation team to use the tailings of the factory for the disposal of excavated contaminated soil.
The project implementation revealed that a more thorough site assessment was necessary. Additional source of contamination was identified in conversations with local people. Turns out some old pipes from the factory were used by local residents as construction materials, particularly for irrigation. As a result several other places in town were contaminated with mercury. A more detailed assessment would be needed to determine the full scope of contamination in Naiman.
On the positive side – a good portion of the town was successfully cleaned up.