St Petersburg makes progress in cleaning up pollution hotspots

Some of the nine pollution hotspots in the St Petersburg region are improving, with reductions in emissions of pollutants such as nutrients and heavy metals into the Baltic Sea, relieving the stressed waters of the Eastern Gulf of Finland, says the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission - HELCOM).

Since 1992, the amount of untreated wastewater coming from the sewers of St Petersburg – Russia’s second largest city, and largest sea port – has been halved, with substantial curbs in discharges of phosphates, says the Helsinki Commission. However, treating the wastewater of industries and five million people living in the city remains a great challenge for the local Vodokanal water works. Half a million cubic metres of untreated municipal and industrial wastewater is still being washed into the River Newa and its tributaries, which flow through the city, every day, says HELCOM. Moreover, 200,000 cubic metres of untreated industrial wastewater are being flushed directly from industrial outlets, although this is 20% less than nine years ago, and the problem is expected to be completely solved by 2015. The new South-West Wastewater Treatment Plant is also now due to be built with the aid of loans and grants from international financial institutions, amounting to US$120 million (£86 million), and is expected to be finalised by 2004.

“A lot has changed for the better since 1992,” said Göte Svenson, Chairman of HELCOM PITF, the Helsinki Commission Programme Implementation Task Force. “For example, the heavy metal discharges from the metal plating industry have been cut down to a great extent in the last nine years: cadmium by 70%, lead, chromium and copper by 90%.”

One of the greatest areas for concern is the Krasny Bor industrial waste deposit, which contains around 800,000 tonnes of unprocessed hazardous waste such as chlorinated substances and heavy metals stored in ten open pits, and is endangering the city’s drinking water. Prolonged heavy rains could even result in the waste being washed into the River Newa. However, support from the European Union and other donors has resulted in the securing of four pits and the construction of incinerators, and there are currently plans to build a new hazardous waste treatment facility by 2004.

Positive changes have also occurred in the agricultural hotspot in the region, with the closure of five out of six pig farms which were inappropriately handling manure.

Recently, HELCOM found that the condition of the Baltic Sea is improving (see related story), with cuts in pollution from Estonia (see related story), but 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).

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