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New Sampling Indicates Significant Source of Nutrient Pollution to the Gulf of Finland


The outcome of the sampling carried out within the framework of Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) BALTHAZAR project in the River Luga, revealing a potentially significant source of phosphorus to the Baltic Sea downstream from the town of Kingisepp, North-West Russia, will be discussed today in a meeting in St. Petersburg. The new estimate of annual phosphorus load of up to 1000 tons from the source would mean a 20% increase from the previously reported average annual phosphorus load to the Gulf of Finland (Fifth Baltic Sea Pollution Load Compilation - PLC-5).

A joint Finnish-Russian research group led by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) within the EU-funded and HELCOM-led BALTHAZAR project carried out an intensive sampling program in the Luga River in October–December 2011 that has now indicated a previously unknown source of phosphorus to the Baltic Sea.

The average total phosphorus load per year to the Gulf of Finland is 4800 tons per year, including 3300 t/y from Russia, 800 t/y from Finland and 700 t/y from Estonia in 2006–2008, according to the PLC-5 report. The total phosphorus load in both the treated and untreated waste waters of City of St. Petersburg was about 630 tons in 2010.

These new findings, to be discussed today in the BALTHAZAR Steering Group meeting, confirm the officially reported data to HELCOM by Russia on unexpectedly elevated inputs of nutrients into the Gulf of Finland via the Luga river since 2008. The load consists almost totally of inorganic, readily algal available phosphorus which causes eutrophication in the Gulf of Finland.

“The exact magnitude of the load should be verified with additional sampling, but the findings within this activity indicate the high cost-efficiency of targeting this source of pollution with quick mitigation measures,” says Kaj Forsius, the BALTHAZAR Project Manager.

“These important outcomes of the BALTHAZAR project are preliminary and need further investigation. We are planning to continue this investigation together with responsible authorities to get a more complete picture of the nutrient inputs originating from Russia and helping to further shape the National Implementation Plan for the Baltic Sea Action Plan,” says Mr. Leonid Korovin, Russian Coordinator of the BALTHAZAR project.

“BALTHAZAR project contributes to the Russia’s implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, including the improvement of pollution load data used in HELCOM assessments. Russia is fully committed to continue the fruitful cooperation within the project for the protection of the marine environment of the Baltic Sea,” says Ms. Natalia Tretyakova, Russian Head of Delegation to HELCOM.

HELCOM assigned a consultant consortium led by SYKE to carry out the activity “Building capacity within environmental monitoring to produce pollution load data from different sources for e.g. HELCOM pollution load compilations”. SYKE is implementing the assignment together with its Russian partner ILRAS (Institute of Limnology of the Russia Academy of Sciences). The survey is aiming at providing answers on e.g. how to improve data sets on point sources and riverine nutrient fluxes in Russia.

To achieve the goal of the Helsinki Convention of a healthy marine environment, HELCOM needs reliable data on inputs into the Baltic Sea from land based sources, as well as information about the significance of different pollution sources. The availability of pollution load data for all coastal states is crucial to target the most cost effective measures to reduce nutrient loading in the frame of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). This new finding contributes important information to currently ongoing review of the BSAP nutrient reduction targets and reporting at the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in 2013.

Eutrophication is regarded as the biggest environmental problem of the Baltic Sea. This is due to the long-lasting high nitrogen and phosphorus load to the sea. The Gulf of Finland is a highly eutrophicated part of the Baltic Sea. The most visible sign of eutrophication are the blue-green algae blooms, which have increased both in the Gulf of Finland and in the main basin of the Baltic Sea since the early 1990s. The excess of phosphorus is the key trigger of blue-green algal blooms.

Link to the original media release (HELCOM)

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Kaj Forsius
Project Manager
Tel: +358 (0)46 8509212
Fax: +358 (0)207 412 645

Mr. Seppo Knuuttila
HELCOM PLC-5 Project Manager
Finnish Environment Institute - SYKE
Tel. +358 40 760 9232
Fax: + 358 9 5490 2190

Mr. Leonid Korovin
St. Petersburg Public Organization "Ecology and Business"
PO Box 66
RU-197 342 St. Petersburg
Tel: +7 812 430 6860
Fax: +7 812 430 9305

Ms. Johanna Laurila
Information Secretary
Tel: +358 (0)40 523 8988
Fax: +358 (0)207 412 645


Ministry of the Environment Finnish Environment Institute Finnish Meteorological Institute

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