River pollution fear over dumped fridges

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The river Clyde in Scotland may have been contaminated by a large number of refrigerators and freezers found dumped on the river bed.

The river Clyde in Scotland may have been contaminated by a large number of refrigerators and freezers found dumped on the river bed.

Under European law it is illegal to destroy or recycle old refrigerators until chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs - chemicals used as coolants known to harm the environment - are expertly removed.

Divers carrying out a routine underwater checks on a tidal weir at Albert Bridge in Glasgow discovered "dozens and dozens" of illegally dumped household appliances in the Clyde, but with visibility down to less than 12 inches, it has been difficult to gauge the extent of the problem.

Fridges or freezers more than five years old contain CFCs,a prime source of ozone depletion and a threat to the river's marine food chain.

A council spokesman said the dumping of fridges in the Clyde was an "appalling act of irresponsibility" as the gasses they release cause serious environmental damage.

Officials fear that unscrupulous door-to-door salesmen are cashing in on people's ignorance of new European regulations and lack of awareness of the council's free collection service for domestic appliances.

"It is disturbing that people are making money out of dumping fridges in such a haphazard manner," said Dan Barlow, head of research for Friends of the Earth Scotland, "It is not only illegal but a potential environmental hazard as most fridges contain oil, either as a lubricant or as part of the heat transfer system, in addition to ozone-destroying gases. Allowing people to get away with this could lead to dumping of more hazardous items."

More than 26,000 fridges were legitimately disposed of in Glasgow in the year to last April. Since then, a further 20,000 have been collected by the council for recycling.

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