More Air Pollution On The Way In Western Bulgaria?

While all over Europe thermal power plants fired with lignite (brown coal) are being taken offline for environmental reasons, here in Bulgaria the national miner’s union threatens strike action if two switched-off units of the Bobov Dol power plant are not powered up again.

In mid-February the Bulgarian Miner’s Union announced that it will call for industrial action if two generator units that were switched off in 2009 and 2011 respectively are not going online again. The Bobov Dol power plant consists of three generator units with a total  output of 630 MW electric power, the switch-off of two units was necessary because of lacking filter systems.

For 2009 the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) published the following release of pollutants from the Bobov Dol power plant:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): 2,140,000 t
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx): 4,840 t
  • Sulfur oxides (SOx): 53,100 t
  • Particulate matter (dust): 3,850 t

(Scroll down for more detailed information about these pollutants)

Why the miner’s union insist the two units go back online is unclear. On one hand, Bulgaria does not need the power generated since it is already the largest exporter of electric power in South East Europe. On the other hand, it would not do the miners a lot of good since the mines in Bulgaria are notorious for delayed payment of wages, lacking safety installations and sloppy management.


Carbon dioxide has a significant effect as a greenhouse gas.

Sulfur oxides can cause adverse effects in the respiratory system of humans and animals. Background level exposures can harm sensitive individuals. Sulphur dioxide can contribute to acid deposition (acidic rain), the impacts of which can be significant, including adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems in rivers and lakes, and damage to forests. Acidic rain can also harm monuments and buildings by increasing the rate of corrosion.

Nitrogen oxides may contribute to acid deposition (acidic rain) and also to eutrophication. Of the chemical species that comprise the NOx air pollutant, it is NO2 that is associated with adverse effects on health, as high concentrations cause inflammation of the airways. NOx also contributes to the formation of harmful particulate matter and ground level ozone in the atmosphere. Nitrogen dioxide can react with organic peroxy radicals (formed from the breakdown of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air) to form PANs (peroxyacetyl nitrates), which can serve as a temporary reservoir for reactive nitrogen and may be transported long distances.

Particulate matter: In terms of potential to harm human health, particulate matter is one of the most important pollutants as it penetrates into sensitive regions of the respiratory system, exacerbating respiratory illnesses such as asthma and contributing to increased prevalence and incidence of other cardiovascular diseases and premature death. Smaller sizes of particulate matter (e.g. PM2.5) are considered particularly harmful due to their greater ability to penetrate deeply into lungs. At a global scale, particulate matter contributes to climate change through its ability to alter the radiative forcing of the atmosphere.


More images from Bobov Dol and other Bulgarian power plants can be found on my website –

(Source: European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register, 29 March 2012)