The Uruguay Ministry of Environment has levied a monetary penalty on pulp and paper manufacturer UPM, citing non-compliance with the environmental management plan at its Paso de los Toros pulp mill.  

The fine, amounting to roughly $188,000, is a consequence of a chemical leak incident that occurred in August 2023. 

The alkaline leak, which happened at the UPM Paso de los Toros pulp mill, resulted in the discharge of sodium hydroxide into a nearby creek.  

This caused an increase in the water’s pH levels, leading to fish deaths and impacting water quality, particularly where the creek flows into the Río Negro river. 

UPM responded promptly to the incident, implementing corrective actions to halt further leakage. 

The company communicated the event to the environmental authorities and local residents, and issued a public statement on its UPM Uruguay website. 

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The company in a statement said: “UPM strongly regrets this incident and takes it very seriously. Our environmental management processes, controls and monitoring worldwide are rigorous, and this type of incidents are very rare in our operations.”  

The affected watercourses’ pH levels were said to be normalised within days.  

The company collaborated with the Uruguayan environmental authority to thoroughly investigated the incident’s causes and effects.  

It also executed all necessary measures, including ongoing monitoring, as directed by the authorities, and is committed to preventing such incidents in the future. 

UPM’s new pulp mill in Paso de los Toros in Uruguay started operation in April last year after receiving final operating authorisation from the Uruguayan environmental authorities. 

The mill is expected to contribute to about a 2% increase in the gross domestic product of Uruguay’s economy.