Every winter, truckloads of garbage tipped into the sea - and quite legally
The City of Helsinki’s Environment Centre is considering whether dumping snow into the sea should be forbidden
By Kaisa Hakkarainen and Anna-Riitta Sippola
Oh not again, residents in Helsinki’s neighbourhood of Munkkiniemi cried vehemently, when trucks began last week to dump snow removed from the streets onto the ice close to the swimming beach.
The residents are worried, and not unreasonably so, about what kind of pollutants the ploughed snow will leave in the water.
”Tyres, an entire park bench, a traffic sign”, says Jyrki Salmi, listing the objects which were revealed under the snow in Munkkiniemi when the thaw came last spring. Salmi lives near the shore.
When snow is transported onto the ice, the largest items of trash can be collected in the spring, but a considerable amount of Helsinki’s ploughed snow ends up directly in the sea.
Officials at the Environment Centre are contemplating whether the dumping of snow into the sea should be banned altogether. The reason for this is the garbage.
Another alternative would be to pick the items of rubbish from the snow before it gets dumped into the sea. There are byelaws against littering, but dumping snow into the sea is permitted.
In practice, snow removal is the responsibility of the Streets and Parks Division of the city’s Public Works Department. The department says that it is not possible to give up the present practice of dumping ploughed snow into the sea.
A quarter of all removed snow is dumped into the sea in Hernesaari, down by the West Harbour.
In the centre of Helsinki, there is no other place for the snow that has been removed from the streets, and in any case, transporting the snow further away would be very difficult in a number of ways.
Two winters ago, the Public Works Department estimated that 1.5 per cent of all snow loads are waste, mostly grit spread on streets in the winter.
An astonishing total of 50,130 snow loads were dumped into the water from the Hernesaari Quay, which - according to that calculation above - included 755 truckloads of waste.
A total of 255 loads of waste consisted of something other than grit.
On Sunday, at least five trucks carrying snow drove to Munkkiniemi within the space of half an hour. At the beginning snow was brought even at night, but that came to an end when the irate residents approached Deputy Mayor Pekka Sauri (Greens).
In Hernesaari, trucks are bringing snow around-the-clock, but the plan is to build residences there, too. In other words, the pressing need to find new alternative dumping sites will increase still further.
In addition to garbage, Munkkiniemi residents are contemplating what kind of other pollution could flow from the ploughed snow into the Laajalahti bay.
However, so far no hazardous pollutants have been found in the snow removed from the streets.
In Oulu, the target is that the removed snow would not be dumped into the sea, as it causes unwanted environmental loading.
In Turku, dumping snow into the sea is avoided, as in narrow sea areas litter and impurities would remain floating for a long time.
Espoo does not dump snow into the sea, as no suitable site has been found.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 27.2.2012
Previously in HS International Edition:
Snow removed from Helsinki streets would fill nearly 40 Houses of Parliament (7.3.2011)
The end is nigh: Maununneva snow pile down to just one metre (21.9.2010)
Piled higher than the rollercoaster at Linnanmäki (7.4.2010)
City of Helsinki Environment Centre
ANNA-RIITTA SIPPOLA AND KAISA HAKKARAINEN / Helsingin Sanomat