Large industrial firm Norsk Hydro hadn’t yet received the legal documents, but faces having to defend itself in a civil lawsuit over its alleged pollution of local water supplies around the large Alunorte aluminum refinery it owns and operates in northern Brazil. Local prosecutors are demanding the equivalent of nearly NOK 600 million (USD 77 million) to secure compensation.
The legal action is the lastest round of trouble after Hydro admitted to toxic leaks from the plant following heavy rains and flooding in mid-February. The company also faces heavy fines in Brazil and government inquiries at home in Norway, where the drinking water scandal has become an embarrassment.
Hydro, which is 34 percent-owned by the Norwegian state, has publicly apologized for the pollution and claims to be working hard to make sure it never happens again. Hydro has also been supplying fresh water to local residents, but has been harshly criticized for earlier failing to work more closely with local residents and contribute to the community.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has also reported that employees at Hydro’s plant also fear for their jobs, not least after around 1,000 workers at the Alunorte refinery were forced to start using their paid holidays from Tuesday of this week. The plant was earlier ordered to cut production in half for an indefinite period while the leakage problem is investigated and addressed, meaning that many workers have been idled. Hydro described the forced use of holidays as a means of preserving jobs.