Baltic Sea eutrophication "remains serious"

Finnish researchers say Gulf of Finland oxygen levels still low despite reduced nutrient inputs

Finnish government researchers today warned that eutrophication remained a serious problem in the eastern Baltic Sea, despite falls in nutrient inputs during the 1990s. Massive algal blooms in the open sea were not observed this summer, but researchers say that during a two week survey of the Gulf of Finland in the eastern Baltic they found several areas where there was little or no oxygen in sea-floor sediments.

"The situation is generally worse in the eastern parts of the Gulf of Finland," according to the Finnish Environment Institute's research director Juha Kämäri, who complained that the project was still awaiting clearance from the Russian authorities to continue research eastwards into Russian waters.

"It is clear that [the Russian city of] Saint Petersburg is the major single source of the excess nutrient emissions," added Mr Kämäri, "and the most cost-efficient way to improve the situation would be to improve the treatment of wastewater in the city, where 30% of sewage is untreated, and the rest is poorly treated." Plans already exist for a significant new sewage treatment plant for St Petersburg, but funding has been problematic.

Finland has greatly stepped up sea water and sediment monitoring since the warm summer of 1997, when alarming quantities of toxic strains of blue-green algae contaminated many beaches, and thick rafts of algae made wide areas of the sea resemble the local pea-soup (ENDS Daily 4 September 1997).

Toxic blue-green algae has also been a problem in many Finnish lakes again this summer. Regular algae bulletins are published in the Finnish media, and there is widespread frustration that bathing is no longer possible in many lakes during the brief summer, and that lake water is no longer suitable for washing or drinking.

Follow Up:
Finnish Environment Institute: +358 9 40 30 07 03. See also July algal monitoring report.

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