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Phosphorous pollution in the Luga River– source of the pollution has not been found yet

March 13, 2012 a meeting with BALTHAZAR working group was held in St. Petersburg concerning joint sampling programme and monitoring of phosphorous pollution in the Luga River. The joint sampling programme and analysis will involve scientists both from Russia and Finland: experts from Roshydromet and their colleagues from Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). Sampling will take place every two weeks in the four sampling points on the Luga River, minor streams and in the town of Kingisepp. The joint sampling program will start on March 20.

January 2012 the results of the research made by Finnish-Russian working group of HELCOM BALTHAZAR project led by Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) were published. The research revealed significant load of phosphorus into the Luga River and thus into the Gulf of Finland. Concentration of phosphorous in the Luga River corresponds to the annual amount of phosphorus load to the Gulf of Finland and exceeds previously reported total emission of phosphorous from all three riparian countries. The source of contamination has not been found yet.

Ville Niiniste, Minister of Environment of Finland, even addressed his Russian colleague, Yuri Trutnev with a request to intervene this situation of pollution of the Gulf of Finland due to phosphorus emissions.

"Phosphorite" plant"Phosphorite" plantBasing on the recent research, the amount of emissions is 20% higher than the previously reported figures; it is estimated at about 1,000 tons of phosphorus per year. At first, the nearby “Phosphorit” plant was accused in being the source of contamination. The plant owned by EuroChem company is located next to the stream Verkhovskoy, tributary of the Luga River. According to scientists, the concentration of phosphorus in the stream Verkhovsky, next to the "Phosphorite" plant, is about 100 mg per liter, which is well above the norm and gives an integral estimate of the annual discharge of phosphorus into the Gulf of Finland that exceeds the common discharge from all other sources.

However, the “Phosphorite” management denies any illegal discharges of wastewater and its involvement in the contamination of the Luga River. According to the results of the previous sampling done by “Phosphorite” laboratory, phosphorous concentration is 2.8 mg per liter which lays within the norms and regulations.

According to one of the hypothesis, the extreme concentration of phosphorus may be associated with prolonged autumn rains and leaching of phosphorus, for example, from the nearby storage of phosphogypsum. Leonid Korovin, head of "Ecology and Business" organization that represents HELCOM in Russia does not have any claims to the operational process at the "Phosphorite" plant and does not relate the phosphorous load to the plant either. However, the source of contamination is still unknown.

February 7th, 2012 EuroChem invited representatives of Russian, Finnish and international environmental organizations, representatives of HELCOM, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Ministry of Environment of Finland, Rosprirodnadzor in Northwestern Federal District, government of the Leningrad Oblast and other organizations to visit the "Phosphorite" plant. At the meeting it was decided to perform supplementary monitoring of the Luga River and stream Verkhovsky; samples will be analyzed in the North-West Department of Hydrometeorology, the research is funded by EuroChem.

Sampletaking on the Luga RiverSampletaking on the Luga RiverDuring the meeting samples were taken at four sampling points, including sewage disposal area of the "Phosphorite" plant. According to the official media sources in Russia, the increase of the phosphorous concentration in stream Verkhovsky near the plant has not been identified.

At the same time, the Finnish Environment Institute reports that their laboratory tests on samples of the water taken near the "Phosphorite" show phosphorous concentration of 157 mg per litre.

EuroChem is ready to fund and continue the search for the source of pollution near the industrial zone.

March 12, at the meeting of BALTHAZAR project team and Russian stakeholders in St. Petersburg, it was decided that the joint sampling program shall begin by March 20.


Comment by Olga Senova

Friends of the Baltic NGO is extremely concerned about the situation with the phosphorus load in the Luga River. We cannot afford conducting our own research, so we can rely on published research findings only. Unfortunately, the official information is insufficient to draw conclusions, it is issued by mass media in small doses.

Due to the fact that the results of the research announced by the official Russian sources and the results of the Finnish Environment Institute are very different, we have some doubts about the availability of all the information and about real amount of contamination. Therefore, we believe the international independent investigation (HELCOM) is essential because the consequences of this pollution will affect the entire Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea.

We believe that the practice of non-revealing or reducing the extent of contamination is unacceptable, only fair and objective assessment of the situation will make it possible to take adequate measures for its improvement.

We believe that all the results of studies of phosphorus load in the Luga River, which are to be held on March 20, by Rosgidromet experts and the BALTAZAR HELCOM project team, should be fully available to the public and posted on Rosgidromet website without any abbreviations.

The materials from HELCOM (www.helcom.fi), Helsingin Sanomat (www.hs.fi), www.lugacity.ru and www.kingtoday.ru contributed to this article

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