Concrete Improvements in Baltic Wastewater Treatment

– PURE Final Conference reports better nutrient removal from urban wastewaters
– Call for new cities and water companies to upgrade their wastewater treatment to HELCOM level

16 October 2012, Gdansk, Poland – The Project on Urban Reduction of Eutrophication (PURE)*, launched in 2010, celebrates its completion in the two-day event starting today. Around 150 representatives of wastewater treatment plants, municipality and environmental authorities, as well as international and non-governmental organizations convene to share the results of the project, and consider how its valuable lessons could be used in other cities across the Baltic Sea catchment area.

PURE project has succeeded in motivating the cities for voluntary actions, in order to improve the state of the Baltic Sea. Through project activities, the stakeholders have experienced how co-operation and exchange of information will both help develop their professional capacity and managerial skills. Moreover, as a concrete result, three PURE partner water companies have implemented investments in the actual treatment plants to improve phosphorus removal. Once the project investments have been completed, the annual phosphorus load into the Baltic Sea will have been reduced by 300-500 tonnes. This equals half of the total annual phosphorus load from Finland to the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea.

The project has identified solutions for improving the sludge management within wastewater treatment and a book on good sludge management practices, first of its kind in the Baltic Sea Region, will be published during the event. Further, a new online tool “PURE BenchMark” has been developed, to improve sharing and visualizing information on municipal wastewater treatment and loads to the Baltic Sea.

Hannamaria Yliruusi, Project Manager, UBC Commission on Environment, says, “The state of the Baltic Sea requires fast and efficient actions. The problems we are tackling are transboundary which means that we need to co-operate. For getting results we have to go beyond current requirements. This needs motivation. PURE project has provided a platform where partners have succeeded in comparing practices and finding new ways to solve individual problems regarding wastewater treatment and sludge handling. Partners have been able to share their experiences and achievements, and motivate other actors to succeed themselves. For Union of the Baltic Cities, Commission on Environment it is important to continue facilitating this kind of a co-operation and support cities to voluntarily improve their water management.”

The results of the PURE project have been encouraging; the wastewater treatment plant of Daugavgriva in Riga and Polish coastal cities Gdansk and Szczecin have improved their wastewater treatment.
Eutrophication is the major problem of the Baltic Sea. Mikhail Durkin, Professional Secretary, HELCOM, says, “Municipal wastewater treatment plants account for 30% of the point source nitrogen loads and 90% of the point source phosphorus loads to the Baltic Sea. Upgrading of urban waste water treatment to stricter HELCOM standards is a good example of where HELCOM
Baltic Sea Action Plan makes a difference. Local know-how and experiences are crucial for successful implementation of the ambitious measures agreed at Baltic intergovernmental level. HELCOM will evaluate the overall progress towards reaching country-wise nutrient reduction targets in the Ministerial Meeting in October 2013 in Denmark. The specific and locally achieved results by countries are the most important parts in the overall success in reaching the agreed goals.”

One of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to address eutrophication is to cut the phosphorus load from the municipal wastewater treatment plants to the Sea. PURE partner water utilities aim to achieve an average annual concentration of 0.5 mg phosphorus per litre in outgoing wastewaters. This is the level recommended by HELCOM with the aim to reach good ecological status of the sensitive ecosystem of the Baltic Sea. However, EU directives allow as much as1.0 mg phosphorus per litre in outgoing wastewaters.

Comments Marjukka Porvari, Director, Clean Sea projects, John Nurminen Foundation, responsible for coordinating the technical investments with the wastewater treatment plants, ”Improving phosphorus removal from wastewaters is essential when saving the Baltic Sea. In Poland alone, the difference between the EU and HELCOM levels in phosphorus purification totals 2,500 phosphorus tonnes annually. This equals around one sixth of the reduction goal set by HELCOM to achieve a healthy marine ecosystem. Closing this gap would increase the annual operational costs of municipal wastewater treatment in Poland only by some 12 million € or 32 cents per inhabitant. Exemplary cities such as Szczecin, participating in the PURE project, have already reached the HELCOM recommended level. It is critical that other cities follow these forerunner cities, both in Poland and in the upstream countries such as Belarus.”

More about the project: www.purebalticsea.eu

More information:

Hannamaria Yliruusi
Project Manager, PURE project
Union of the Baltic Cities, Commission on Environment
Phone: +358 44 9075 993
e-mail: firstname.lastname@ubc.net

Mikhail Durkin
Professional Secretary
Phone: +358 46 850 9195
Fax: +358 207 412 645
e-mail: firstname.lastname@helcom.fi
Skype: helcom04

Marjukka Porvari
Director, Clean Sea projects
John Nurminen Foundation
Phone: +358 41 549 1535
e-mail: firstname.lastname@jnfoundation.fi

Note to editors

PURE (Project on Urban Reduction of Eutrophication) is a joint project led by the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) Commission of Environment. John Nurminen Foundation coordinates the investments and HELCOM is responsible for stakeholder communication and knowledge sharing. The other project partners are water utilities of Riga and Jurmala (Latvia), Brest (Belarus), Kohtla-Järve (Estonia), Szczecin (Poland) and Lübeck (Germany), and cities of Gdansk (Poland) and Mariehamn (Finland).
One of the key objectives of PURE Project is to improve wastewater treatment in the Baltic Sea Region. The project helps selected wastewater treatment plants in phosphorus discharge reduction and sludge management. Key targets of the project is to significantly reduce the phosphorus load of the Baltic Sea by around 300-500 tonnes annually by the end of the year 2012. Moreover, the project facilitates matchmaking and benchmarking and it identifies good practices in sludge handling. The project is co-financed by INTERREG IV B Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007-2013.

The project has been granted an additional six months to complete the investments planned for the Brest wastewater treatment plant in Belarus, where, the project will continue until June 2013.

Union of the Baltic Cities, Commission on Environment (UBC) is a well-recognised partner in European co-operation. UBC is a twenty year old network of more than 100 member cities in the Baltic Sea region. Attractiveness with specific focus on the cities in the Baltic Sea Region are crucial part of building good living conditions and quality of life for our inhabitants in the Baltic Sea Region. UBC has for a long time been involved in projects aiming at improving water quality and an important part of this is to build modern municipal wastewater treatment management.www.ubc-environment.net

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. HELCOM is the governing body of the “Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area,” more usually known as the Helsinki Convention. www.helcom.fi

The John Nurminen Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea projects improve the state of the Baltic Sea. The target of the Foundation’s Clean Sea projects is to achieve an annual reduction of 2,500 tonnes of phosphorus discharges by 2015. The Foundation’s Tanker Safety project aims to reduce the risk of an oil disaster by introducing a new navigation service ENSI® (Enhanced Navigation Support Information) to tankers in the Gulf of Finland. The Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea operations are funded through private donations and public funding. www.cleanbalticsea.fi