Environmental Contamination in Romania

Tourism to the rescue: Romania promotes tourism as it tries to recover from environmental damage, and the city of Turda remains an environmental disaster zone

The old saying “What goes around comes around” has applications for industrial waste. Companies may evade responsibility, but the consequences of contamination caused by waste linger for society. Raluca Besliu describes how a chemical plant in Turda, Romania, transformed over the course of the 20th century from major employer to abandonment in the late 1980s. Western neoliberals encouraged privatization of such facilities, and an investor purchased the plant’s assets in 1999. Romania lacked strong environmental regulations, and so hasty demolition and scavenging contributed to site contamination with mercury and other hazardous chemicals. Romania joined the European Union in 2007, the same year that the firm controlling the plant’s site went bankrupt, but more stringent regulations did not help Turda and the companies that went bankrupt. “European Council directives and European Commission regulations prohibit temporary storage of waste for more than one year, but the companies left holding the old deposits have little recourse,” Besliu writes. Turda still struggles with cleanup even while being touted as a tourist destination. A former salt mine renovated into a museum and amusement park welcomed a record number of visitors in 2017. – YaleGlobal