BEIRUT: The Energy and Water Ministry and Electricite du Liban Friday rebuffed complaints about the level of pollution produced by the Zouk power plant, saying emissions had been reduced by 80 percent since the authorities installed a filtration system in the smoke stacks.

Speaking at a news conference at Zouk plant, Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian and EDL Director General Kamal Hayek told reporters that the new system was installed in 2012.

Nazarian and Hayek’s rebuttal came after dozens of Kesrouan residents and politicians staged a sit-in near the power plant last month to protest the pollution caused by the facility and to demand its relocation to another area.

Nazarian said the ministry and Cabinet in 2010 approved a medium- to long-term plan to tackle the pollution caused by all power plants.

The proposals at the time included the construction of two new power plants in Zouk and Jiyyeh which operate on a reverse-engine system and switching to environmentally friendly natural gas.

The minister said the Zouk plant had been built in 1956 in an area that at the time was designated as an industrial zone and that the facility was rehabilitated and expanded in 1983 with the approval of all parties.

Showing maps and documents, Hayek too stressed that the plant had been built in an industrial zone, and questioned why residential units were built near the facility.

He added that the employees at the plant examine the level of pollution twice a week.

Hayek said EDL launched a tender to monitor the level of pollution and to install oxygenemeters to measure the emissions from the stacks and install opacemeters to measure the density of the smoke.

He called on all municipalities in the region or any consulting firm to double check the information EDL has provided.

Hayek also questioned the motives behind the campaign against the plant.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 09, 2015, on page 4.