Russian fertiliser factory near Gulf of Finland admits massive phosphorus emissions, says problem is now resolved
Waste water now channelled to old treatment plant for phosphate removal
The mystery of the lost phosphorus emission on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland in the northwest of Russia appears to have been cleared up.
Massive emissions into the Luga River, and from there into the Gulf of Finland, suddenly stopped in January after the leaking residue from the Fosforit fertiliser factory in Kingsepp was dammed up and channelled elsewhere.
The phosphate-rich runoff water now goes into a pool, and from there to an old treatment plant, where it is being treated.
Previously the factory had denied the existence of the emission, which was discovered in a Finnish-Russian study. It came out that phosphate was flowing from the factory area, probably from the pile of waste gypsum, into the Luga River at the rate of up to 1,000 tons a year.
This made the factory the largest single source of phosphorus emissions in the whole Baltic Sea catchment area.
Fosforit now reports that it eliminated the emission after the publication of the results of the research.
The factory’s parent company Eurochem said on Wednesday that the company started to investigate the sources and flow routes of the surface water immediately in January when there were extensive reports in the media about elevated phosphorus levels in the Luga River.
The phosphate-contaminated water flowed from the factory area into a single ditch, which was also indicated by the follow-up study. This made the emission easy to study.
The runoff water in the ditch was dammed up in an area with ponds and swampland. In the spring a pumping station and a pipeline were set up, along which the emission is now channelled into an old and disused treatment plant. In the plant the phosphorus extracted through lime precipitation.
“After the measures that we have taken we are convinced that the phosphorus-rich waste water from the mine will not reach the Luga River until after it has been treated”, says Fosforit CEO Vladimir Yerlykov.
The lime precipitation works well, says Marjukka Porvari, head of the Clean Baltic Sea project of the John Nurminen Foundation.
The foundation has worked together with the factory to reduce the phosphorus load.
“The emission has been stopped. A good solution has been found for rapidly channelling the water into treatment”, Porvari says.
Although very large amounts of phosphorus were measured in the ditch in the winter, up to 230 milligrams per litre, the content has now been brought down to a fraction of that. “With lime precipitation the phosphorus content has been cut to as low as 0.8 milligrams a litre.”
While some questions remain on the precise origin of the emission, Marjukka Porvari emphasises that the most important thing is to make sure that there are no massive emissions of phosphorus into the Baltic Sea from any sources.
Eurochem and the John Nurminen Foundation agreed on Wednesday that an independent European expert would be commissioned to evaluate the efficiency of the collection and cleaning system of the surface water, and to monitor phosphorus levels in the Luga River.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland wants to resume sample-taking in Luga River (20.4.2012)
Finnish environment researcher arrested – Finland suspends phosphorous monitoring in Russian river (16.4.2012)
Luga River phosphorus emission suddenly vanishes (9.5.2012)
Russian Foreign Ministry lashes out at Environment Institute researcher (23.4.2012)
Major emission source uncovered in NW Russia (18.1.2012)