Uruguayan environmental authorities and UPM have conducted a continuous monitoring of the Fray Bentos mill's environmental performance with the help of several independent researchers and environmental experts during ten years.
“Throughout the programme we have not found any evidence that pulp mill effluents would have an environmental impact on water quality and biology of Río Uruguay since the start-up of the mill in 2007,” says biologist Jukka Tana. Tana has been a member of the researcher group since the very beginning of the work.
Between 2005 and 2007 the research group concluded baseline studies of water quality and biology of Rio Uruguay to analyse the river as the receiving water of the mill effluents. After the start-up these analyses have been continued as a permanent monitoring programme.
Comprehensive river evaluations
The research work included studies on water quality, sediment, plankton and fish communities.
“We have also recruited local fishermen to keep a record of their fish catches. The fish community and population structure has remained unchanged at all three study areas and the condition of the fish caught has been observed to be in a good state.”
Tana says the monitoring programme has been one of the most comprehensive research works ever conducted in a pulp mill emission studies.
“With our results we have proven that even our preliminary environmental assessment and modelling prepared in 2003 was correct in its assumptions that the mill does not have an impact on the river,“ he concludes.
Controlling the mill emissions
In addition to external independent environmental monitoring, UPM’s experts also monitor the pulp mill’s environmental performance continuously.
Gervasio González, the mill’s environmental manager confirms that the river monitoring is one of the most important parts of the work. “The monitoring include effluent discharge to river as well as water quality and biology in the river itself but also emissions to the air, air quality, waste generation, soil quality, among others”. The results of UPM’s monitoring are also communicated to the public.
In 2012, the UPM Fray Bentos pulp mill became the first non-European mill to be certified in accordance with the voluntary EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). EMAS promotes legal compliance and mitigation of environmental impact on the local area.
After eight years of operation of the UPM Fray Bentos pulp mill, the cumulative environmental data proves that the mill is one of the best performing pulp mills in the world.