The John Nurminen Foundation and Vodokanal of St. Petersburg complete a record project in combating eutrophication of the Baltic Sea

June 28, 2011
St. Petersburg

– Enhanced phosphorus removal at the water utility’s three largest wastewater treatment plants reduces annual phosphorus load to the Baltic Sea by 1000 tonnes
– This is about 20% of the total phosphorus load discharged into the Gulf of Finland, and equals the total annual phosphorus load from Finland to the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea
– Vodokanal of St. Petersburg is the first water utility in Russia to implement chemical phosphorus removal in its wastewater treatment plants

Vodokanal of St. Petersburg (the water utility of the city) and the John Nurminen Foundation celebrate today the completion of the final stage of their five-year project at St. Petersburg’s three largest wastewater treatment plants. Measured in terms of reduced phosphorus load, the Clean Baltic Sea project is by far the most significant single project combating eutrophication of the Baltic Sea.

Co-operation between the Foundation and Vodokanal started in 2005. The partners have previously concluded chemical phosphorus removal projects at St. Petersburg’s Central and Southwestern wastewater treatment plants. As the final phase of the project, chemical phosphorus removal installation has now been completed at the Northern wastewater treatment plant.

The total cost of the project is around 5 million Euros. This has been co-funded by the Foundation and Vodokanal based on a 50-50 principle. The Foundation’s share of the project has been fully funded through companies’ and private individuals’ donations. In addition, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment partly financed the first two stages of the project (Central and Southwestern plants). The Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency SIDA has financially contributed to the project’s last phase in the Northern wastewater treatment plant. The Foundation has managed and administered the project throughout the process.

The project was started in 2005, based on an assessment by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The institute had concluded that the fastest and most cost-effective way to mitigate eutrophication in the Gulf of Finland was to improve removal of phosphorus at the wastewater treatment plants of St. Petersburg. This could be done by implementing chemical phosphorus removal in the existing wastewater plants.

As Lea Kauppi, Director General, SYKE, stated, “When comparing different water protection measures in Finland and Russia, the measures already carried out in the City of St. Petersburg together with those being implemented there in the next couple of years can be considered the most effective and quickest way of improving the state of the Gulf of Finland – both in terms of the environment and cost-effectiveness.”

In the closing ceremony held on June 28th at the Northern wastewater treatment plant, Felix Karmazinov, CEO & Director General of Vodokanal commented on the results,
“St. Petersburg is the largest city by the Baltic Sea coast. We therefore bear a special responsibility for the state of the Sea. Thanks to good cooperation with our foreign and, above all, Finnish partners, St. Petersburg has made huge progress over a very short period of time. Before 1978, there was no wastewater treatment at all in our city. By the end of 2011, we will have 95 % of all sewage treated.

“Wastewaters will be treated in full compliance with the recommendations of the Helsinki Commission HELCOM. By introducing chemical phosphorus removal technology at our wastewater treatment plants, we have been able to reduce considerably the phosphorus load discharged into the Gulf of Finland. We are not going to stop at that. We continue to improve the wastewater treatment system in St. Petersburg by phasing out the remaining untreated wastewater discharges, modernizing our treatment plants and implementing energy efficient technologies, “said Karmazinov.

Juha Nurminen, Chairman of the Board of the John Nurminen Foundation emphasized that credit for the achievement goes to the sponsors, supporters and partners of the Foundation. In addition to the main long-term sponsors of the Foundation, i.e. the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, Fortum, Nokia and Sanoma, he also drew specific attention to the many companies and individuals who have worked with the Foundation on a voluntary basis and donated their time and expertise to the Foundation.

Said Juha Nurminen, “We will not rest on our laurels after this project. In addition to St. Petersburg, we are currently active in eight cities in five countries. There are also several smaller Russian cities that benefit from our involvement. We are currently working in Vyborg and Gatchina and are actively seeking for new partnerships that will result in fast, measurable, and cost-effective actions with concrete and significant environmental impact. One of the most interesting opportunities for load reductions lies in Belarus. We have already started working in Brest through an EU-funded project, and plan to continue in Belarus with a number of other cities.”

Says Anne Christine Brusendorff, Executive Secretary, HELCOM, “Since 1990s, the City of St. Petersburg has worked steadily on improving its environmental image from being the biggest pollution “hot spot” in the Baltic Sea area to become a greener city. This great success story shows that it is crucial to have political will and motivation to take matters one step further than what is required by environmental legislation. What has taken in place in St. Petersburg is a result of true commitment and willingness to step up in terms of environmental responsibility. In terms of wastewater treatment, the City of St. Petersburg aimed for stricter results than required by the Russian Federation and the European Union – simply because their discharge standards are not tailor-made for the sensitive ecosystem of the Baltic Sea*. We believe and hope that success stories such as in St. Petersburg will help create incentives for environmental improvements in other cities around the Baltic Sea as well.”

*The requirements of the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) aim at protecting the environment from the adverse effects of discharges of wastewater. However, from the point of view of the alarming status of the Baltic Sea the requirements of the UWWTD are not stringent enough. Instead of a maximum concentration of 1.0 mg/l of phosphorus in the outflow of wastewater treatment plant (requirement of the UWWTD), the Baltic Marine Environment Commission (HELCOM) recommends a total phosphorus concentration of no more than 0.5 mg/l.

For more information, please contact:

John Nurminen Foundation
Marjukka Porvari, Director, Eutrophication
John Nurminen Foundation
Tel. +358 41 549 1535

Erik Båsk
Secretary General
John Nurminen Foundation
Tel. +358 40 825 8071

Tuula Putkinen
Communications Manager
John Nurminen Foundation
Tel. +358 400 907 809

SUE “Vodokanal St. Petersburg”
42 Kavalergardskaya Street,
St.Petersburg, 191015,
Tel. +7 812 305 09 09
Fax +7 812 274 13 61

The John Nurminen Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea projects improve the state of the Baltic Sea. By 2015, the target of the Foundation’s eutrophication projects is to achieve an annual reduction of 2,500 tonnes of phosphorus. This goal accounts for one-sixth of HELCOM’s overall objective of an annual reduction of 15,000 tonnes of phosphorus discharged into the Baltic Sea.

The Tanker Safety project aims to reduce the risk of oil disasters by introducing the new proactive ENSI (Enhanced Navigation Support Information) navigation service to all tankers in the Gulf of Finland during 2013. The Foundation’s operations are fully funded through donations.

For more information on the project in St. Petersburg, please see www.puhdasitameri.fi
The Annual Report of the John Nurminen Foundation is available at www.johnnurmisensaatio.fi

Note to the editors

The project in St. Petersburg

The eutrophication projects of the John Nurminen Foundation involve a number of partners. The prerequisites for the Foundation’s operations in St. Petersburg were created by the continuous development work of the water utility of St. Petersburg with international financiers*, who have been active in the region for quite some time. During this co-operation, the City of St. Petersburg has invested approximately one billion euros in wastewater treatment.

Once the majority of St. Petersburg’s wastewaters had been directed to functioning wastewater treatment plants, the Foundation was able to start planning the construction of permanent chemical phosphorus removal systems, and committing the water utility of St. Petersburg to continuous use of precipitation chemicals.

The Foundation’s co-operation with the St. Petersburg water utility began in 2005, when an agreement on the improvement of phosphorus removal efficiency at the three largest, i.e. Central, Southwestern and Northern wastewater treatment plants of St. Petersburg was signed.

The Foundation has been in charge of the technical planning of investments, co-ordination of Finnish and Russian planning work, purchasing management, and procurement and delivery of equipment at the plants. The Finnish Ministry of the Environment participated in the financing of the projects at the Central and Southwestern wastewater treatment plants. The project at the Northern wastewater treatment plant was part-financed by the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency, SIDA. The estimated total cost of the St. Petersburg project borne by the Foundation is around 2.5 million Euros.

Improving the efficiency of phosphorus removal at the St. Petersburg’s Central wastewater treatment plant was completed in 2009. The project at the Southwestern plant was finalized in 2010. A technical study on improving the efficiency of phosphorus removal was carried out at the Northern wastewater treatment plant in 2010, and equipment for chemical phosphorus removal was delivered and installed in March-June 2011.

Thanks to multilateral co-operation and the water utility’s own efforts, the largest wastewater treatment plants of St. Petersburg achieve now a reduction of over 1,000 tonnes in their annual phosphorus load into the Gulf of Finland in comparison to the year 2005. This is equal to the total annual phosphorus load from Finland to the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea.

* For example, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment established its co-operation with the St. Petersburg’s water utility already in 1991 and has since contributed funds totaling 30 million euros, to support wastewater treatment projects e.g. on the improvement of the sewerage system and basic infrastructure of wastewater treatment, improved operational efficiency of wastewater treatment plants, phosphorus removal tests, and the development of the water utility’s administration. The support from the Ministry is often used as seed funding for launching new projects.