John Nurminen Foundation hosts Belarusian water utility delegation’s visit to Finland

Construction works and equipment procurement led by the John Nurminen Foundation, seeking to boost the efficiency of wastewater treatment, are now underway at three Belarusian wastewater treatment plants

The PRESTO* project, or the Project on Reduction of the Eutrophication of the Baltic Sea Today, is moving ahead according to schedule, improving wastewater treatment and wastewater knowhow in Belarusian cities. Last week, the leaders of the committees in charge of three Belarusian water utilities and regional wastewater treatment plant infrastructure came to Finland for a four-day visit. During the visit, the John Nurminen Foundation and the Belarusian project partners discussed practical, investment-related questions. The guests also visited the Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant ‒ the largest not only of Finland but of all the Nordic countries ‒ and acquainted themselves with Finnish wastewater treatment technology.

The PRESTO equipment investments for improving the efficiency of nutrient removal from the wastewaters of Grodno, Molodechno and Vitebsk have now moved on to the competitive bidding phase. The international bidding competitions for equipment delivery are open until the end of May. Bids are requested for chemical phosphorus removal equipment and for equipment that boosts biological nutrient removal. The PRESTO target with the greatest potential environmental impact is to have the treatment plants treat their wastewaters in line with the recommendation of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission HELCOM (maximum of 0.5 mg of phosphorus per outgoing litre of wastewater). Through their achievements in wastewater treatment, the water utilities participating in the PRESTO project and its predecessor PURE, one of which is located in Brest, Belarus, set an example to other Belarusian wastewater treatment plants. The target is to finalise PRESTO project investments during the summer of 2014. The investments also support any major rebuilding efforts of the future.

The visit to Finland was a first for all of the guests. Tommi Fred from the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority hosted the visit to Viikinmäki, and explained that in Helsinki, chemical phosphorus removal was first deployed in the late 1970s. During the 1970s, the annual phosphorus load discharged to the waterways from Helsinki was still roughly 400 tonnes. Today, the figure is only around 20 tonnes. The guests were also interested in tariffs, biogas production by means of sludge decomposition, and the reuse of composted sludge in soil improvement.

Director Sviatoslav Karpinski explained that the water utility of Grodno, a city with 340,000 inhabitants, is strongly committed to the objectives of the PRESTO project. ‘Spurred on by the PRESTO project, the Grodno wastewater treatment plant is renewing its existing technology. This will lead to permanent improvements in the quality of wastewater treatment. Our visit to Finland was both useful and very interesting. At the seminar and during the visit we were able to find mutually acceptable answers to many open questions.’

Stanislav Bakun, the director of the water utility of Molodechno, a city with 100,000 inhabitants, said that wastewater treatment in the city has to deal with the additional challenge of discharges from the food industry, including milk and meat processing plants. ‘The board of directors of the Molodechno water utility is very grateful for being invited to join the PRESTO project. After our visit, we understand Finland’s concern for the status of the Baltic Sea. Belarus is located inland, but after our visit to Helsinki, located by the sea, as well as the eastern parts of the Gulf of Finland, we now understand the Finnish view of a shared Baltic Sea.’

Director Aleksandr Sahovski from the Vitebsk water utility said that the wastewater treatment plant receives wastewaters from the city’s 370 000 inhabitants and the 12 smaller villages that surround the city. The plant will deploy chemical phosphorus removal and obtain equipment, such as pumps and blowers, that improve the efficiency of biological processes. ‘Naturally, the new equipment is very important to us. I would, however, wish to emphasise that the training provided by the PRESTO project to the staff of the water utility is equally significant and crucially important for our efforts in the long run. It has also been a joy to work with our new partners from the John Nurminen Foundation.’

Juha Nurminen, Chairman of the John Nurminen Foundation Board of Directors, commented that ‘it is extremely important to include Belarus amongst the countries that promote the protection of the Baltic Sea. Belarus is a country where discharge volumes can be reduced in a major way, and work done there sets an excellent example to the countries downriver of Belarus, giving them a necessary wake-up call.’

In addition to Grodno, Molodechno and Vitebsk, the PRESTO project is joined by the water utility of Lida, where technical surveys on the most cost-efficient investments are currently being drawn up. A technical survey has also been completed for the wastewater treatment plant of the city of Baranovichi, but the related investments will not be made within the scope of this project. The water utilities of Kaunas, Lithuania and Daugavpils, Latvia are also PRESTO participants. Under the PRESTO umbrella, the plant of Daugavpils will improve its sludge management. Plans for sludge composting are currently being drawn up.

During the spring of 2013, the PRESTO project partners met in Minsk, Belarus at the Water Management Policy Forum, and in Berlin, where a special forum for Belarus was arranged in connection with the Wasser Berlin trade fair. The project partners also acquainted themselves with wastewater and tap water treatment in the city. Moreover, the partners received training in industrial wastewater and runoff water management, and in practical questions related to phosphorus removal.


*The objective of the PRESTO project is to improve the efficiency of nutrient removal in the three Belarusian cities of Grodno, Molodechno and Vitebsk. The project reduces the phosphorus discharges from wastewater treatment plants to the Baltic Sea by a total of approximately 500 tonnes annually. The John Nurminen Foundation is responsible for project investments: for each wastewater treatment plant, monetary investments amount to approximately €500,000. In addition to the three cities, investment plans for improved nutrient removal are also drawn up for the wastewater treatment plant of the city of Lida. A technical survey has also been completed for the wastewater treatment plant of the city of Baranovichi, but the related investments will not be made within the scope of the PRESTO project.

In addition to the investments, the project includes training modules run by Technische Universität Berlin. The purpose of the training modules is to improve the competences of Belarusian wastewater treatment experts in the field of nutrient removal. The water utilities of Kaunas, Lithuania and Daugavpils, Latvia also participate in the project. With EU support, nutrient removal technology in the Soviet-era Daugavpils and Kaunas wastewater treatment plants has been renewed, and they now serve as good examples to other plants making project investments. As part of the PRESTO project, the Daugavpils plant also invested in improved sludge treatment. The Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) is in charge of PRESTO project administration.

EU’s Baltic Sea Region Programme approved the PRESTO project in 2011. The total budget of the project is €4.55 million, of which direct investment to nutrient removal at wastewater plants accounts for €2 million. EU funds the majority of the project, bearing 75–90% of the project partners’ project costs (depending on the country where the partner operates). Moreover, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment supports the Finnish project partners UBC and the John Nurminen Foundation with a total sum of €185,000, covering the majority of the own costs of these two project participants.