Acid Tar ponds in Incukalns, Latvia

Two sulfuric acid-tar waste disposal pits located near to one of Latvia's largest rivers threatens the environment and people's health. A legacy from the Soviet industrialization, but now no one is made responsable for that


Acid Tar Ponds in Incukalns are two sulfuric acid-tar waste disposal pits located near to one of Latvia's largest rivers – Gauja and Incukalns municipality.

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Basic Data
NameAcid Tar ponds in Incukalns, Latvia
SiteIncukalns municipality
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Chemical industries
Specific CommoditiesChemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThese are unsafe lagoons made for conservation of acid tar. Nothing is extracted from the place.

Potential affected population (number of people (may also be a range)

In case of pessimistic scenario in the long run whole North-eastern part of Latvia, inhabitants of Rigas municipality will be affected due to near location to Gauja river - about 900 000- 1,1 million of people.

Company names or State enterprises

"Sconto Buve Ltd" - first working company-liquidator.

"VentEko" Ltd, "Eko Osta" and "BAO" Ltd formed general partnership "Incukalns Eko" that starting from 2017 is responsible for elimination of toxic ponds.

Home country (The country or countries where the company or companies main office is)

The "Sconto Buve" Ltd company was responsible for salvation of the lagoons till 2016, its office is located in Riga, Latvia. New liquidator is a general partnership made also from in Latvia registered companies.

Generally, the guilty company, that produced this pollution, does not exist anymore, it was closed after the collapse of the USSR as any state's owned company in that time.
Project Area (in hectares)2,5-3,5
Level of Investment (in USD)29,258,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population Inhabitants of this region - about 8-9 thousands of people.
Start Date01/01/1991
Company Names or State EnterprisesSconto Buve Ltd from Latvia
"Incukalns Eko" from Latvia
Riga Petroleum Refinery Factory from Latvia
Relevant government actorsState Environmental Service, Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Regional Development of Latvia Republic, National Alliance party.
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Regional Develoment Fund (ERDF)
European Commission (EC)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNo data.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginUNKNOWN
Groups MobilizingLocal government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationThere are very few information sources about the conflict such as research papers, academic essays of scientists. That is why not all forms of mobilization in the conflict are known to the authors.
There is start of salvation of territory. Creation reports, sharing knowledge and findings between state and researchers. Meetings between municipality representatives and citizens.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
OtherLiterally, it is spill of oil products. "Sconto Buve" ltd researchers made a conclusion in 2015 that in the lagoons are found several new toxic and extremely dangerous substances. It is claimed that during so long time there is formed an accumulation of toxic gas - sarin, that is dangerous due to its volatility, so air is in danger. Due to pollution of ground waters all the flora & fauna are in danger. Use of hazardous water could lead to distinction of several species of fauna. Hypothetically, as the lagoons cover aprx. 3 hectares of the Incukalns land, it is degradation and loss of landscape which looks awful and can't be improved. This land is not proper for any use now. Moreover, after all the successful work done, still the area has to be closed for the any access which literally means loss of 3 hectares.
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Malnutrition, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
OtherStill there are not enough data that prove the possibility of exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks, mental problems. But it is proved that hazardous chemicals lead to poisoning of organism, causing death. Time is needed to uncover any other possible effects of sarin on people's genetics and health.
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherIn case of soil pollution in the whole north-eastern part of Latvia (Vidzeme region) a lot of farmers would be forced to give up the agriculture, lack of work security and safe resources in pessimistic scenario could lead to bankrupt of several crops' enterprises and factories (such as beer factories) who use the water of that region. As the result, this may lead to unemployment, people will be forced to change their lifestyles = loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Development of AlternativesStart of the salvation of the territory. To solve this environmental conflict, citizens involvement is needed because the plan is ready, local authorities are concerned about the issue, however, the proper actions are not taken as fast as they should be because there is no pressure from suffering side.

There are reached agreements between 3 sides - EU Commission and Funds, Latvian government and company-liquidator. Work groups concluded that fast and effective solution - immediate removal and isolation of the waste from the environment - is needed.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.On the one hand, European Commission is aware of the problem, Latvian scientists and researchers also are monitoring and exploring the impacts and possible scenarios of liquidation of the lagoons, there is the agreement made with company - liquidator. State Environmental Service also pretends to work (few interviews and articles in state newspaper and radio).

On the other hand, due to the Soviet history of Latvia there is lack of feeling responsible, unfortunately, involved people do their work slowly and silently. There is lack of information in social media, so it is almost impossible to follow and observe the development of situation. There exists an opinion and a lot of discussions that in this situation the USSR (the country that no more exists) is responsible for this environmental crime . People are used to shaking off the responsibility and holding discussions around the roots of the problem, forgetting about the real danger and necessity to save the environment.

There are some works started to save the place, but there is no progress at all. The process of real action - restructuring of the lagoons has not even started. All we can see in Incukalns is a fence around the territory.
Sources and Materials

Baltec Associates, Mitigation of environmental impacts of Incukalns sulfuric acid-tar waste, 2004. Retrieved 27.02.18 from
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Jānis Zvērs, Gudrona dīķus par 26 miljoniem eiro smels "Inčukalns Eko", 2018. Retrieved 27.02.18 from
[click to view]

Latvian Public Broadcasting English-language service, Toxic waste site clean-up costs raise new stink, 2015. Retrieved 27.02.18 from
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Anonymous for "Diena" newspaper, Gudrona dīķu sanācijas iestrēgušos darbus turpinās pilnsabiedrība Inčukalns Eko, 2018. Retrieved 27.02.18 from
[click to view]

Romans Melniks, Gudrona dīķu saturs - īpaši karstā krāsnī, 2017. Retrieved 27.02.18 from
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Anonymous for "" magazine, Gudrona dīķu sanācijas projekta problēmu cēloņi, 2013. Retrieved 27.02.18 from
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Anonymous for International Magazine "The Baltic Course", Incukalns Eko to continue rehabilitation of acid tar ponds for EUR 26.6 mln, 2018. Retrieved 27.02.18 from
[click to view]

Anonymous for Online Internet Magazine "" Gudrona dīķu sanācijas projekta problēmu cēloņi, 2017. Retrieved 27.02.18 from
[click to view]

Anonymous for Online Internet Magazine "" Gudrona dīķi - no rašanās līdz…?, 2017. Retrieved 27.02.18 fromķi---no-rasanas-lidz…
[click to view]

Other Documents

Acid Tar Ponds
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Meta Information
ContributorJekaterina Kalinina ( [email protected]) & Diana Vidronoka ([email protected])
Last update13/03/2018