Poland makes good progress on cleaning up pollution, but the situation is still bad

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, known as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), has announced that Poland has made good progress in cleaning up its pollution hotspots, but that Polish rivers are still too polluted to be used for industrial or agricultural production.

Investments in environmental protection in the country have increased five-fold since 1990, with 94% of funding coming from within the country, in many cases from the polluting plants themselves, says HELCOM, following a regional review meeting in Cracow on 25-26 September. Ten hotspots were assessed at the meeting, a HELCOM spokesperson told edie, two of which are currently being prepared to be wiped from Poland’s list of 36 hotspots, which were identified in 1992 by HELCOM: the Boleslaw Metallurgic and Mining Plants and the Boruta dye-stuffs plant in Zgierz. Others, like the Kujawy wastewater treatment plant in Cracow are likely to be deleted in the near future. The remaining 26 hotspots will be reassessed at next year’s meeting.

The National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Poland has reinvested €200 million (£125 million) to restore some of the hotspots, which has resulted in the fact that in 1999, 86% of all industrial and municipal wastewater discharged into rivers and the sea is being treated – a total of 5.3 million cubic metres of wastewater per day.

“We are confident that all Polish hot spots in this area could be restored before 2013, the deadline of our environmental action programme,” said Göte Svenson, Chairman of HELCOM Programme Implementation Task Force (PITF). “Poland has put into place a very direct and successful way to force down pollution – by charging fines and fees for environmental pollution,” said Svenson.

Throughout the Baltic region, a total of 132 hotspots were identified by HELCOM in 1992, and so far, 22 have been deleted, with most of Estonia’s hotspots restored (see related story), and the amount of untreated wastewater being emitted by the sewers of St Petersburg halved. However, the Commission has also reported that the coastal city of Kaliningrad, situated in a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, will require a further US$150 million (£104 million) in order to clean up its emissions into the sea (see related story).

According to HELCOM, municipal and industrial hotspots include those emitting high and/or significant amounts of polluting substances, such as hazardous substances, phosphorus, nitrogen and organic matter, released via rivers or directly into the Baltic Sea, including wetlands and lagoons, although emissions can also be to air. Examples include wastewater collection and treatment systems that fail to efficiently treat hazardous substances; leaking sewer networks; and industrial facilities leaking high and/or significant amounts of substances such as salts and oil, contributing to effects such as turbidity, siltation, and thermal effects, significantly effecting marine and coastal species.

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