RUSSIA: Water clean up for St Petersburg and the Gulf of Finland

A $90 million deal to improve the water supply in St Petersburg and the Leningrad area was signed last week. The project is a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), French company SNF-Floerger and the public company responsible for water treatment for the city, Vodokanal St Petersburg.

The UNDP project document quotes a report from the St Petersburg Sanitation Department that contamination of drinking water is one of the causes of the high disease rate in the city. It also quotes a Finnish Ministry of Environment report that the single largest source of pollution reaching the Gulf of Finland is untreated sewage discharged directly into the sea from the St Petersburg region.

The project will create a polymer plant for sewage and drinking water treatment in the Leningrad Region. At present there are no local polyamine processing facilities in Russia and most products used must be imported from abroad. The state of the Russian economy and the lack of hard currency make this problematic. As a consequence, standards of water supplies and waste treatment can be perilously low.

The immediate objective of the project is to develop appropriate treatment of drinking water and sewage and bring Leningrad Oblast’s and St Petersburg’s water treatment up to international standards, while reducing processing costs.

This involves creating the infrastructure for the two main phases of water treatment: upstream treatment (bringing water up to drinking standard through the use of polyamines or some polyacrylamides) and downstream treatment (using polyacrylamides for purifying water from domestic or industrial use before discharge).

A polyamines manufacturing unit will be completed in 2001 and polyacrylamides and acrylamide units in 2006 (with pilot studies to start as early as 2001).

Polyamines are coagulants which act on small, extremely dispersed colloidal particles to combine together in large flocs, which can then be removed by traditional methods of separation of solid and liquid phases This process is used for primary treatment of polluted water. Polyacrylamides increase the activity of the purification process and are particularly effective for treating water containing large suspended particles and minerals.

French company SNF-Floerger operate in Europe, the US and Asia manufacturing water-soluble polymer products which are used in water-treatment, paper, textiles, oil, cosmetics and agriculture.

Vodokanal St Petersburg has been using SNF-Floerger products for years but after the collapse of the rouble in 1998 was unable to pay hard currency to import them. This resulted in the non-treatment of sewage and drinking water in the region. After negotiation with the local authorities, SNF decided to transfer its technology to a Russian firm, ZAO Baltreagent, which SNF will capitalise in exchange for a golden share.

In transition countries where financial mechanisms are not well established, the UNDP can facilitate projects that might not otherwise materialise because the legal framework is not stable or personal interests are high on the political agenda. The UNDP has attracted investment to Russia by providing a stable and secure framework, convincing banking institutions to backstop investment projects. Frederic Claus of UNDP’s Moscow office explained to edie that SNF sought UNDP involvement to ensure that its own investment was through a transparent mechanism in order both to ensure an adequate transfer of its technology and a guarantee for its investment.

In the long run the project will create a substantial number of jobs, and could eventually be replicated in other Russian towns where the consumption of water treatment products reaches a minimum of 5,000 tons a year.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie