Testing the waste matters of Abadan oil refinery from

the Gaissy area

Has revealed a severe imminent threat to

Shadegan International wetland



Translated by: Mahin Sorouri


The time to break the code of silence and propose a plan for the Neutralization of the poisonous wastes is now.   


In the fall of 2004, while constructing a boulevard in Abadan, 35000 cubic meter of oil refinery waste were dug out and in utter disregard to their poisonous nature were dumped in the waters of Shadegan , an internationally known wetland. This was done in accordance with the Mayor’ s order and surveillance.

For over sixty years, since the beginning of the Abadan oil refinery, the waste material were dumped in an area far away from the city called Gaissy land and were covered up with earth. Eventually this area became part of the city of Abadan (due to its growth) and for years the poignant odors of the evaporating gases from these waste matters caused discomfort to people, particularly in summer time. After the partial digging of them, some still remain under the houses and schools.

The test results of 50 grams of the dug out waste matter showed that it is composed of % 63 oil hydrocarbon and % 37 elements and metals .The following table show these elements and theirs respective percentages.








32.0 %

0.586 %


0.436 %

0.570 %






0.0185 %

0.0250 %

1.59 %

0.183 %

0.471 %








0.000282 %

0.961 %

0.0173 %

sum= 37.45



 According to the test findings:


a)     %63 were oil hydrocarbon, a by- product of refining oil. During testing there was constant reduction of the weight of the sample due to the evaporation of its gases. In the process of refining oil the aromatic hydrocarbon are formed mainly as Banzen and Toluene gases.

b)    %32 was Sulfur used as catalyst in the oil refining process. Chemically Sulfur bonds with oxygen and hydrogen to form SO2 and SH2 gases respectively, while aquatic environment turns both of them into acids.

c)     %5 of the sample were made of elements and metals, such as Chromium, Cupper, Aluminum and others.


The sample percentages of poisonous gases in particular Banzen and Toluene, Sulfur by- products and the dangerous metals such as chromium shown in the table will reach quite astonishing proportion when one imagines  that 35000cubic meter of them were dumped in the waters of Shadegan Wetland, which hosts rare birds, unique plants, fishes and other aquatic species.

In the open air, Banzen, Toluene and other oil- hydrocarbons are generally volatile and due to the atmospheric changes such as rain, wind and evaporation they are moved around. But in water they form dangerous Phenol compounds. Breathing or coming in contact with Banzen gas will cause blood abnormalities and cancer. These gases, after entering the body, through oxidation process form phenol in the liver. Breathing Banzen will cause serious malfunction of the central nervous system. Breathing it for long period of time causes tiredness, head ache and loss of appetite, while coming in contact with them causes allergies, certain skin disorders such as burns, congestions and arythm.  Toluene gas and its dangerous compounds create poisonous conditions particularly in water.

Beside the danger of breathing Sulfur Oxide (SO2), its compounds in water turn into acids and by changing the PH of the water create a poisonous acidic environment that will eventually ruin the wetland’s plant life. The exact same dangers exist for SH2 gas and its poisonous acids in water.

Chromium exists in two forms in nature. One group (with the valence of 3) is not harmful to humans and environnment , even sometimes they are beneficial. While the second group (with the valence of 6) in an acidic environment is quite harmful and causes cancer of the gastric and pulmonary tracts. About 10mg of Chromium in 1kg of food -stuff will cause the digestive and renal discomfort and will upset the blood building capacity of the body.

This study only reveals limited range of the damage caused by the Gaissy incident to Shadgan wetland. Based on this, and due to the fact that Shadegan wetland opens into Persian Gulf more studies should be conducted in the future to show the full scope of imminent danger to the wetland’ s echo system and its debilitating long-term effect on the environment of the whole area.

Earth Watchers ‘Center, which has been following the Abadan incident closely, believes that Mayor and his staff should have conducted the preliminary, necessary tests to find out more about the chemical composition of the pollutants and to look for possible ways of neutralizing them, in which case they could have avoided facing environmental pollution of such magnitude with all its complications and problems. Unfortunately this pattern of starting major projects without the required preliminary surveys and studies has become a norm rather than exception, and has cost us loss of live and loss of national wealth.

It is very unfortunate that none of the officials or organs of the Environmental Protection Organization, on the local or national level, have shown any concern so far, except that they have chosen to remain silent.

At the six environmental exhibition of Tehran, EWC presented the sample from Gaissy land that attracted plenty of the visitors’ attention. Mrs. Ebtekar(Director of the Environmental Protection Org. ) and Mr. Zangeneh ((the Oil Minister) had also a chance to personally see it and smell it too.


Earth Watchers Center - August 2005