Gaziemir, one of the 30 districts of Izmir, was recognized as “Chernobyl of Izmir” due to the nuclear waste that remained in the soil for decades. The nuclear waste was detected in the grounds of The Aslan Avci Lead Factory in 2011, soon after the factory moved away to an other district of Izmir and the company was sentenced to pay the highest environmental penalty of 5.7 million Turkish Liras for its polluting the environment. Being at a distance of 75-100 meters from two primary schools with over 1000 students attending each, it is located in the middle of the town.
Despite the fact that authorities were informed by press releases of environmental organizations such as Aegean Environment Platform(EGECEP) and Anti-Nuclear Platform Izmir (NKP Izmir), negligence remains with the radioactive waste in the soil. As a result of being affected negatively the civil society claimed lawsuits in 2014 for the sake of public health and psychology but the problem remains unsolved as civil society excluded from the legal process. According to the statement by experts, the amount of the waste were known as 100 thousand tones; but today new facts are emerging regarding the amount being twice or triple more.
‘A smell of a mixture of hydrochloric acid and bleach’
After introducing some cases chronologically, this article will try to provide an understanding of how the residents who have been left to live with radioactivity within toxic waste in the neighbourhood and how they are affected in their daily lives. Especially at the time of the Covid-19 threat when it is “normal” to be closed in interior spaces, imagine you had to avoid even opening a window due to the existing smell of a mixture of hydrochloric acid and bleach. Gaziemir residents have been living in such conditions that a pregnant woman is afraid for her baby’s future and her voice trembles. Another woman in the neighbourhood who moved to Gaziemir after her marriage tells how they have been suffering from the smell for 17 years so that she never allows her children to play in front of the apartment building. The smoke rising after the rain and the red dust brought by the wind too means we need to worry, while reminding the nuclear waste.
On the other hand, these externalities also make negative impact on health…. While some residents suffer from asthma diseases in the neighbourhood, there is also a risk that the nuclear-contaminated wastes which was buried in the soil are flammable through chemical reaction. It was February 2019 when the firefighters said “This is a bomb ready to explode!,” when fire started in the factory grounds.
Not 100 thousand but even 250-300 thousand tons of radioactive slag!
Despite of the fact that the public health has been ignored for 13 years and no precautions have been taken, the scale of the problem is likely even bigger than what the public knows. According to the statement of a witness who had worked at the factory, nuclear waste was brought into operation at the end of 2006 and processed. Meanwhile, the recycling of scrap nuclear fuel rods caused radioactive contamination of scraps that were recycled consecutively, due to the usage of same furnaces in the subsequent processes. Earlier waste was contaminated as well, since nuclear waste was burried in the ground on top of others. As a matter of fact, according to the witness’ court statement, some waste was sent to the disposal facility of the municipal waste management company IZAYDAS, but were rejected due to the radioactivity detected.