City of Helsinki and Shell quarrel over EUR 600,000 cleaning bill for leasehold site
Real Estate Department lawyer: “We’ll go to court if need be”
The squabble that has emerged between the City of Helsinki and Shell over the cleaning of the Laajasalo oil harbour site is fundamentally about money.
Shell would be willing to stump up EUR 20,000 for the clean-up operation, but the city demands that the oil company tip in no less than EUR 600,000 to cover the ground restoration work.
According to estimates, the contested leasehold site contains around 22,000 tons or 562 trailer lorry loads worth of spoiled earth.
Most of the soil in question is rated as mildly or severely contaminated.
Shell would be willing to pick up the tab for the reconditioning of the site for industrial use. This would translate to cleaning only the portion of the earth that is rated as problem-waste - in other words just short of ten trailer lorry loads of soil.
The City of Helsinki is in turn asking Shell to restore the area so that it would be suitable for habitation. Residential areas have to be void of problem-waste but also free of severely and even mildly contaminated terrain.
The cleaning operation would entail digging up the contaminated earth and transporting it to reprocessing or to a refuse tip.
The cleaning of the site so that it would meet the residential area standards comes with a price tag of more than half a million euros. The removal of mere problem-waste would cost about EUR 20,000.
The City of Helsinki has zoned the oil harbour area for residential use and would like the land to be cleaned up accordingly.
The city’s interpretation is that the once pristine area has to be restored back to the condition it was in before it was leased out.
“The contamination of the ground during the rental period is not acceptable”, says property lawyer Martti Tallila of the City of Helsinki Real Estate Department.
“We rented the area for industrial use, and we also intend to hand it over to industrial use”, says Shell Finland CEO Henry Hellberg.
Shell demands that Finland’s Environmental Administration resolve the matter.
“Normally the Environmental Administration takes 30 days to handle applications. We have waited for an answer since January”, says Hellberg. “We adhere to the law. We’re just waiting to hear the Environmental Administration’s ruling regarding the matter.”
Finland’s Environmental Administration has demanded that Shell provide additional clarification with regard to the area’s future use, but the oil company has declined the request.
“Simultaneously Shell has announced that it will not accept any decision that would extend the company’s responsibility over the restoration of the area to match the standards necessitated by the area’s future development objectives”, states the Environmental Administration.
“This has taken us by surprise. One would think that the company would embrace its pro-environmental image, instead of arguing over petty cash”, says Katariina Kurenlahti from the Environmental Administration.
According to Martti Tallila, if need be the issue will be taken forward by means of legal proceedings.
“One would think, however, that a company of Shell’s stature and solvency would choose the morally correct route in the matter.”
Kruunuvuorenranta housing project (City of Helsinki)