In 2014, collaboration between the Foundation and the Vitebsk water utility began with the goal of improving the efficiency of phosphorus removal at the city’s wastewater treatment plant so that it would comply with the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission HELCOM’s recommendation of max. 0.5 mg of phosphorus per litre of wastewater leaving the plant.
In 2014, with support from the EU, the treatment plant acquired equipment that is needed for improving the efficiency of phosphorus removal. Belarus is not, however, a member of the EU or the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission. Since national-level norms do not demand it, the water utility does not have the financial means for removing phosphorus in line with the EU and HELCOM requirements. This is why, in 2015, the Foundation and the water utility decided to launch a project which bridges the gap between Belarusian requirements and HELCOM recommendations by supporting the purchase of a sufficient amount of precipitation chemicals. This way, we can reduce the annual phosphorus load that ends up in the Baltic Sea by way of the Daugava River by up to 46 tonnes.
Through the project, the Foundation compensates the Vitebsk water utility for half of each batch of chemicals purchased, with the water utility itself paying for the other half. Compensation payments are made against purchase receipts and bills of freight.
By financing the project in Vitebsk, several Finnish water utilities have already compensated for the nutrient load that ends up in the Baltic Sea after their own wastewater treatment. The project was implemented in 2017–2018.