Waste water treatment at Russian fertiliser factory to be placed under international scrutiny
Fosforit plant in NW Russia believed to be major source of phosphorus emissions into Gulf of Finland
An independent European body is to start monitoring the activities of the Fosforit fertiliser plant in September, under an agreement reached by the Russian chemical company EuroChem and the Finnish John Nurminen Foundation.
The follow-up is to be handled by a large environmental consulting company which does not have any previous affiliation with EuroChem, for instance.
The area around the Fosforit plant in Kingisepp on the Luga River in the northwest of Russia was shown to be a major contributor to emissions of phosphorus into the Gulf of Finland. Phosphorus spurs the growth of algae, contributing to eutrophication and depriving the water of oxygen.
Measurements by the Baltic Sea Protection Commission revealed that up to 1,000 tonnes of phosphate, the equivalent of the untreated sewage of one million people, flows into the Luga River, which empties into the Gulf of Finland.
The area is estimated to be the largest single source of phosphorus emissions in the entire catchment area of the Baltic Sea – an area comprising 14 industrialised countries where 90 million people live.
The area has been the source of large amounts of phosphorus runoff into the Gulf of Finland for a long time. The first signs of large emissions came in 2008, when the Russians started taking samples downstream from the plant, instead of upstream.
Information of the emissions did not reach Finland until August last year. At that time Russian and Finnish investigators began searching for a possible source.
The emissions disappeared quickly when the matter was made public in January.
Fosforit did not admit that it was the source of the emissions, but it did investigate the matter quietly, and managed to find a ditch emptying into the Luga River, which brought phosphorus-rich water into the river.
Tensions rose in April when the Russian security police, the FSB, arrested Seppo Knuuttila, a special investigator at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) as he was taking samples in the area. It was Knuuttila who discovered the emissions in the first place.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Russian Foreign Ministry lashes out at Environment Institute researcher (23.4.2012)
Finnish environment researcher arrested – Finland suspends phosphorous monitoring in Russian river (16.4.2012)
Emissions from Russian fertiliser plant into Baltic Sea equal those of all of Finland (19.1.2012)
Major emission source uncovered in NW Russia (18.1.2012)
Russian fertiliser factory near Gulf of Finland admits massive phosphorus emissions, says problem is now resolved (7.6.2012)
Luga River phosphorus emission suddenly vanishes (9.5.2012)