Finnish and Polish authorities will start detailed investigations next week to look into two large possible phosphorous leaks into the Baltic Sea, says the Ministry of Environment.
The cooperation was set earlier in June between Finnish Environment Minister Ville Niinistö and his Polish counterpart Marcin Korolec, after the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat and the John Nurminen Foundation reported separately that two phosphor-gypsum sites in Poland could be leaking into the Baltic.
Two Finnish researchers will travel to the sites in Gdańsk and Police. The duo will leave for Poland on Monday July 1 and take samples from around the waters near the phosphor gypsum piles on the Baltic coast. The Finnish Environmental Institute will analyze the samples and put out a report by the end of the following week.
Helsingin Sanomat, which collected its own water samples from the Vistula river delta around the Gdańsk plant, reported that the waste pile there could leak as much as 200 tonnes of phosphorus into the Baltic annually - more than all of Finland’s cities combined.
The John Nurminen Foundation reached an even higher estimate of 500 tonnes for Gdańsk and at least 170 tonnes for the Police site in their report, conducted by the Finnish consulting firm Pöyry. This report was assembled using data provided by the Polish authorities.
But although the environmental authorities in Poland have detected high levels of phosphorus around the massive storage piles, their conclusions differ highly from the Finnish independent analyses. Polish officials and the fertiliser plants responsible for the waste consistently deny that any phosphorous, which is a major medium for eutrophication, flows directly into the Baltic.
At the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission Helcom (Helsinki Commission) delegates meeting in Helsinki in June, Poland’s chief inspectorate of environmental protection, Andrzej Jagusiewicz, said that the amounts of phosphorus detected near the sites fluctuate seasonally, but that no wastewater streams into the Baltic. Jagusiewicz welcomes the Finnish officials into Poland as per the agreement by the Finnish and Polish ministers.
”We noted that potential risk spots exist and that these two sites that have been widely reported on are among them,” said the Finnish delegate to the meeting, Eeva-Liisa Poutanen from the Ministry of the Environment.
Helcom acts as an agent between the Baltic States and the European Union to smooth the progress of Baltic Sea protection and conservation.
The Polish authorities expressed concern about the Finnish reports, but maintain that a high degree of measures are taken to guarantee that the waste stacks in Police and Gdańsk are appropriately managed.