Gigantic chicken farm is to clean its manure
Finns will finance the repairs of leaking manure storage basins at the Udarnik chicken farm on the Karelian Isthmus
By Matti Huuskonen in Pobeda
Nikolai Tsistjakov, the owner of the gigantic Udarnik chicken farm, makes it very clear indeed that the quantities of nutrients escaping from the large-scale farms surrounding St. Petersburg depend on money and the course of economic events.
Tsistjakov’s Finnish guests are nodding.
Director Marjukka Porvari and Project Manager Elena Kaskelainen from the John Nurminen Foundation know the score.
To put it bluntly, the hens, cows, and pigs feeding the residents of St. Petersburg defecate much more than is the amount of manure needed in the fields of the Karelian Isthmus, Ladoga, and Ingria.
The manure could be put to good use in the grain production areas of Southern Russia. However, it would not be worthwhile to transport it there, as artificial fertilisers are so cheap.
At the Udarnik chicken farm, one can see what the result of this equation is.
The long, broad, and deep dung pools of the poultry farm have become full to the brim. The walls are leaking, and manure has to be carried to the nearby woods as well as to other areas of the farm.
Especially during spring floods, dung escapes from the farm’s basins along a ditch to the Kanneljärvi Lake.
Kanneljärvi used to be the name of this entire municipality until the Winter War and Continuation War, but today the name is Pobeda (”Victory”), and we are in Russian Karelia and not the Finnish equivalent.
Nutrients from the Udarnik chicken farm flow into the Gulf of Finland through the Soltaanjoki and Vammeljoki rivers.
According to the measurements conducted by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), about nine tonnes of phosphorus and slightly over 30 tonnes of nitrogen escaped last year, which is a fairly large but not totally unreasonable amount.
”It is equal to emissions from the Sunila pulp mill in Kotka”, illustrates special researcher Seppo Knuuttila from SYKE.
It's the economy, money and finances, stupid.
Udarnik has had no money, at least not before Tsistjakov bought the insolvent chicken farm and received a loan of EUR 25 million for repairs from the Saint Petersburg Bank.
A part of the loan has already been used to renew some of the poultry buildings at the 40-year-old farm. The rest are being repaired by leased workers from the Caucasus, who are present-day Udarniks. (Udarnik is a Russian term for a superproductive worker, by the way.)
A part of the buildings will be equipped with modern hen-coops which meet the new EU standards and in which chickens have more space to move than previously.
A new slaughterhouse with innovative equipment has already been completed.
At the end of next year, the number of broiler chickens and egg-laying chickens will amount already to almost 1.5 million.
In comparison, at the largest chicken farms in Finland there are slightly more than 100,000 hens. By the same token, at the largest chicken farms in the St. Petersburg region there are around 7-9 million fowl.
Approximately EUR 1.5 million of the renovation loan will be spent on environmental protection.
”With that sum we could acquire two new production buildings”, Tsistjakov points out.
One of the goals is to reduce the amount of manure.
The task will be taken care of by installing new automatic water dispensers which will replace the old water troughs. The dispensers do not splash water around, which is why the manure does not turn into sludge.
In order to finance the emptying and repairing of the old manure basins as well as the cleaning of the forest, Udarnik will receive financial support from Finland and Sweden.
The John Nurminen Foundation as well as the Baltic Sea Action Plan Fund will give a total of EUR 145,000 for the project. Nevertheless, most of the expenses will be covered by the chicken farm itself.
”First we will have to make proper roads that can carry the heavy machinery to the basins”, Tsistjakov notes.
In the autumn the basins should be in such a condition that they can be shown even to the media.
”Welcome back in October!” Tsistjakov says cheerfully.
”The direct emissions will be brought under control, while we will get some more time to think about what we should eventually do with the manure”, say Porvari and Kaskelainen, the ladies whom the Baltic Sea protectors know by the name Duo Evtrofikatsija (”Duo Eutrophication”).
In Russia, manure is regarded as waste, not as fertiliser.
The gigantic chicken farms, large-scale pig farms, and huge dairy farms are nonetheless a smaller threat to the Baltic Sea than has been feared.
”The amount of manure is huge, but only a fraction of its nutrients end up in the sea”, says Seppo Knuuttila of SYKE.
The Balthazar project of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission was monitoring the emissions from a dozen or so chicken farms, pig farms, and dairy farms for three years.
The Udarnik and Roskar chicken farms were also included in the survey.
In 2011, a total of almost 4,000 tonnes of phosphorus was found in the manure of the farms which were being monitored.
However, only about 30 tonnes of the phosphorus were washed into the waters, an amount that roughly equals the emissions from three Finnish pulp plants.
”The amount of phosphorus that ended up into the Gulf of Finland was even smaller, as part of the nutrients gets stuck in the rivers and lakes along the route”, Knuuttila points out.
The number of large-scale animal farms in St. Petersburg’s immediate environs, in the oblasts of Leningrad and Kaliningrad, amounts to slightly more than two hundred.
The amounts of manure they produce annually contain 10,000 tonnes of phosphorus.
According to SYKE’s calculations, maybe one per cent or 100 tonnes of this amount escapes into the waters.
The estimate clearly differs from the threat assessments of the last decade.
Previously for example the Ministry of the Environment warned Finns of a "chicken manure bomb".
It was feared that it would eutrophicate the Gulf of Finland as badly as the sewage released from St. Petersburg did before crucial new sewage treatment plants and chemical phosporus removal processes were introduced there.
Unlike in Finland, manure is regarded as waste not as fertiliser behind the eastern border.
For the time being at least, it has been stored in basins or in piles.
Knuuttila says that the solution is perfectly reasonable, but only so long as the manure depots and ponds do not leak or break, as they did last year at a farm close to Lake Ladoga.
Were the muck to be spread evenly on the local fields instead, the nutrient run-off risk would climb appreciably, and it would inevitably lead to greater loading on the Gulf of Finland.
In its investigation, SYKE has identified about half a dozen high-risk farms, where manure is being handled carelessly.
Even though their emissions are not substantial compared with unpurified industrial or household waste in the area, leaking manure depots should be fixed up as quickly as possible, Knuuttila says.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 10.6.2012
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland asks Russia for explanation for arrest of SYKE researcher (17.4.2012)
No agreement near over Russian phosphorus emissions (7.2.2012)
Efforts continue to find solution to phosphorus emissions from Russian fertiliser plant (30.1.2012)
New sample confirms massive phosphorus emissions from Russian plant (26.1.2012)
Russia responds to Finnish note about arrest of environmental researcher (18.5.2012)
Russian Foreign Ministry lashes out at Environment Institute researcher (23.4.2012)
NEWS ANALYSIS: Phosphorus relatively easy to remove from waste water (19.1.2012)
John Nurminen Foundation
BSAP Trust Fund
MATTI HUUSKONEN / Helsingin Sanomat