By December 31, all electric transformers containing chemical pollutants known as ‘PCBs’ will have been removed across the country and replaced with safer alternatives, officials have announced.
Environmental scientists say PCBs are types of organic pollutants that persist in the environment and cause adverse effects to human health and the environment by contaminating water, soil, air and food.
The elimination is being implemented by Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), and Energy Utility Corporation Limited (EUCL).
It is part of efforts to implement the Stockholm Convention, an agreement signed by 151 countries in 2001 and entered into force in 2004 so as to reduce or eliminate the production, use and release of persistent organic pollutants by 2025.
REMA and EUCLon Tuesday embarked on relocating transformers containing PCB substances from Gikondo wetland to an environmental friendly storage recently constructed for such chemicals in Jabana Sector, Gasabo District.
According to Eliezer Ndizeye Rusakana, the coordinator of PCB Elimination Project at REMA, they are used in cooling systems and electrical equipment.
However, when transformers leak, the oil (PCB chemicals) it contaminates water, soil and vegetation and can gradually cause cancer, respiratory and skin diseases and cause mothers to deliver abnormal babies.
“We conducted a survey last year and found that 196 transformers out of 2,500 that we tested contained the substances.
We want to eliminate them this year by replacing them with alternative technologies such as mineral. By December 31, 2017 we want to have eliminated the substances in the country,” said Rusakana.
On the transformers containing the chemical, he said, only 27 have been removed from the distribution network and were ready for decontamination, while others are still being used in electrical distribution network across the country.
Some $100,000 has been set aside for the exercise but could increase since the PCB that are being removed will be taken to CIMERWA factory, which will incinerate them using modern incinerating technologies.
“Negotiations have not yet formally started because the factory itself is seeking an expert who will carry out an assessment and examine its capacity to incinerate. They will see if the current capacity is enough or needs to be increased,” he said.
The expert will also assess if smoke from the incineration will not pollute the air so that they can introduce other technologies to filter the air.