Ekokem's hazardous waste treatment plant in RiihimäkiFinnish hazardous waste management company Ekokem has been awarded a contract to dispose of the chemicals and effluents produced in the process of destroying Syrian chemical weapons, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced on Friday.

In addition to the Riihimäki-based company, the chemical arms watchdog awarded a contract to the international water treatment conglomerate Veolia.

Altogether, 14 companies submitted bids in response to the call for proposals.

“We are very pleased with the confidence in our expertise and to have been able to demonstrate our expertise,” comments Timo Piekkari, the CEO of Ekokem.

Piekkari underlines that the disposal of Syria's chemical arsenal entails no technological challenges for Ekokem. “We don't destroy the weapons but participate in the disposal of the waste produced in the destruction process,” he says. “We process thousands of tonnes of the same materials every year.”

Citing Ekokem's arrangement with the OPCW, Piekkari declines to comment on the scope and schedule of the project, as well as the distribution of responsibilities with Veolia. Last month, the waste management company revealed that it has submitted a bid to help dispose of the waste produced in the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

The resolution for the destruction of the weapons was passed following a devastating gas attack in the Damascus suburb of Saqba in August, which left hundreds dead and sparked worldwide outrage.

After their collection in the conflict-ravaged country, the chemical weapons will be transported to the Port of Latakia and thereon, aboard a Nordic fleet, to the Port of Gioia Tauro on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy. Roughly a dozen Finnish soldiers have been sent to secure the transport operation, which began in mid-January.

In Italy, the weapons will be loaded onto the American container vessel Cape Ray for their neutralisation at sea. The disposal of the chemicals and effluent produced in the process, in turn, is the responsibility of Ekokem and Veolia.

Altogether, an estimated 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons will be destroyed, with an initial priority on the disposal of the roughly 500 tonnes of extremely hazardous chemicals, such as mustard and sarin gas, believed to be in Syria.

Pekka Hakala – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva