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Airborne dust season begins early in Helsinki area

Full cleanup expected later

Airborne dust season begins early in Helsinki area
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The early arrival of spring has led to deteriorating air quality in the Helsinki region. In many parts of Helsinki, Vantaa, and Espoo, air quality was poor on Thursday.
      The early onset of airborne dust was preceded by cold and sunny days in late February, when large mounts of grit were spread on icy streets. Passing vehicles grind the grit into dust.
      The spring cleaning of the streets began at the weekend with a clearing away of the dust on pedestrian and bicycle paths, but the overall situation is expected to be difficult, as it was last year.
      Under guidelines, there should be no more than 35 days in a year in which acceptable levels of small particles in the air are exceeded. In Helsinki, the maximum levels were exceeded on 59 days last year, even though the dust season at that time began late because of a cold March.
In Helsinki, the cleaning effort is encumbered by the fact that so many different entities share responsibility for the matter. City authorities are responsible for removing sand from the streets, public squares, and bicycle and pedestrian paths. The cleaning of sidewalks is usually the responsibility of the owners of the adjacent buildings.
      "The cleaning operation would be more efficient if cleaning the sidewalks were the task of the City. In the present system, property owners are expected to clean the sidewalks before the city comes to clean the streets, but this does not usually happen", says Pekka Isoniemi of the maintenance office of the Helsinki City Public Works Department.
      In neighbouring Vantaa, the city is responsible for the cleaning of all streets and sidewalks, and the result is better.
      Dr. Heikki Tervahattu of Nordic Envicon, which studies the effects of small particles, sees reducing traffic to be the key to the street dust problem.
      "If Helsinki were to adopt road tolls, as Stockholm has, limiting the amount of traffic in the centre of the city, it would have a major effect on reducing street dust", he says.
An extensive spring cleaning in the Helsinki region will not begin until after all snow and ice is gone, and night frosts are past.
      The Helsinki Public Works Department says that this way, the entire cleaning effort can be completed at one time.

Helsingin Sanomat

  16.3.2007 - TODAY
 Airborne dust season begins early in Helsinki area

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