Bulgaria: Pernik – The EU’s Most Polluted City

The lignite-fired ‘Republika’ thermal power plant near the city of Pernik in western Bulgaria is considered the largest emitter of sulfur oxides in the EU, making Pernik one of the most polluted cities in Europe.

The ‘Republika’ power plant started operating 1951 and is still generating 180 MW of power. It is fired with lignite (brown coal) and as a result releases 15,000 ts of sulfur oxides (SOx) into the air every year. ‘Republika’ is the largest single emitter of SOx in all EU-countries.

In addition, between 7,000 and 10,000 ts of dust and the incredible amount of over half a million tons of carbon dioxide gets blown out of the smoke stacks annually.

The amount of dust in the air around Pernik (92 micrograms per cubic meter) is more the three times the EU average.

No surprise that Pernik, about 25 kilometers southwest of Sofia, is considered one of the most polluted cities in Europe, second only to the infamous Chernobyl in Ukraine. But unlike in Chernobyl, more than 100,000 people live in the immediate neighbourhood of the ‘Republika’ power plant and several metallurgy plants.

Although the EU has blacklisted the ‘Republika’ plant in 2009, the government so far has done nothing improve the situation around this or any of the seven other lignite or coal fired power plants in the country.

(All images copyright Johann Brandstätter/JB Photography)