Towards Prevention Pollution of Water Resource by Introducing Innovative Solutions and Engaging Population at Municipal Level

How to avoid water pollution in Belarus and the Baltic Sea?

The contamination of the Belarusian reservoirs and the Baltic Sea was discussed at the January 30, 2018 conference in Minsk. The event was attended by more than 80 participants from various regions of Belarus, including representatives of housing and communal services, district executive committees and public organizations. The organizers of the conference were IPO “Ecopartnership” and the Coalition Coalition Clean Baltic.

The Executive Secretary of the Coalition Clean Baltic, Mikhail Durkin, in his speech outlined the most pressing problems of water resources management and the formation of a policy for their solution in the Baltic Sea region, where part of the Belarusian rivers carry their waters.

− When large urban agglomerations and large agricultural enterprises appeared in the Baltic region, when mineral fertilizers began to be actively used, this led to the fact that in the mid-80’s the situation in the Baltic reached a peak in terms of pollution, and the Baltics literally began to choke , − said Mikhail Durkin.

According to him, the situation remains serious, despite the high level of wastewater treatment in Western European countries. Every year, due to the large number of nutrient contaminants, the Baltic Sea blooms, and the zones without oxygen, where all the flora and fauna die, also increase at the bottom. More and more new contaminants are entering the sea waters, including micro-plastic and medical wastes.

“Each of us is responsible for ensuring that water policy is effective so that we, our children and grandchildren have an accessible safe environment”, Mikhail Durkin emphasized.

Elena Sanec, head of the Geosystem Optimization Laboratory at the Institute of Nature Management of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, described in more detail biogenic contamination of Belarusian water bodies and rivers. By biogenic elements are understood compounds of nitrogen and phosphorus. They are present even in unpolluted natural waters. On the one hand, they provide nutrition to aquatic biota, on the other − with their overabundance there is a rapid development of aquatic organisms, which can lead to oxygen deficiency due to its consumption for breathing aquatic organisms and oxidation processes when they die. According to her, the amount of biogenic pollutants discharged with sewage into the rivers is large enough. In the period from 2005 to 2015, 90% of the sewage entering the Belarusian rivers contained pollutants.

Among the causes of nutrient pollution, she noted the absence or high physical wear of treatment plants, the insufficient degree of introduction of modern technologies for them, the lack or low technical level of rainwater sewage systems in enterprises, as well as in a number of small towns, the deterioration of the ecological condition of water bodies and coastal areas in places of mass recreation.

About the new pollutants that enter sewage from households, said project manager NonHazCity Tonie Wickman. We are talking about dangerous chemicals that are contained in non-food products − household chemicals, building materials, cosmetics, clothes, toys − and as a result fall into the environment. Among them are alkylphenols, phthalates, bisphenol A. It resulted in analysis of sewage from residential and industrial areas of 6 cities in different countries, which was conducted as part of the NonHazCity project. Alkylphenols, bispheonol A, cadmium, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals have been found in all municipalities and in all samples. These substances contribute to the destruction of the human endocrine system and affect the reproductive function of animals.

In the fight against this problem, the development of a management plan for hazardous substances at the municipality level helps. So Tonie Wickman shared the experience of Stockholm, where a similar document was adopted for 2014-2019. It provides for informing residents, compliance with environmental criteria for municipal procurement and monitoring.

In addition to the Swedish experience in reducing the content of hazardous substances in goods at the conference, events were held in Riga and Gdansk.

Eugene Lobanov, director of the Center for Environmental Solutions, spoke about the problem of micro-plastic content in wastewater. Micro-plastics are the smallest particles of plastic, usually they can not be recognized visually. It can be contained in various cosmetics, for example, scrubs and creams, and also formed as a result of the destruction of plastic products − bags, bottles, etc. The study carried out by the Center for Environmental Solutions showed that Belarusian water bodies are contaminated with micro-plastics. According to the expert, the content of this pollutant can be reduced by setting a ban on the use of micro-plastic in cosmetics and by reducing the amount of debris falling into water bodies.

The conference presented a unique experience for Belarus and European countries in creating a map of nutrient load on the example of the Iv’ye region. It was developed by the expert on water resources Alexander Pachomov on the initiative of the IPO “Ecopartnership”. The map allows to predict where the location of new sources of nutrient pollution for the environment will be critical, and where permissible.

For the Iv’ye region, on the initiative of the IPO “Ecopartnership”, work was also carried out to assess the operation of the existing treatment facilities. They were presented by the head of the department “Water supply and water disposal” of the Belarusian National Technical University Vladimir Anufriev.

Over the past years, IPO “Ecopartnership” has been promoting the construction of local wastewater treatment plants in Belarus − ground and vegetable sites. They serve as an alternative to cesspools / septic tanks in rural areas where there is no centralized sewage system. Assistant of the Department of Industrial Ecology of the Belarusian State Technical University, Yegor Sapon, spoke about the efficiency of the already existing soil and vegetation sites in Belarus. Among the advantages of this type of sewage treatment plant, the expert of IPO “Ecopartnership” noted lower capital investments during construction and the absence of the need for maintenance staff. By the way, ground and vegetable sites are widespread in Poland, Germany, Sweden.

The conference also discussed issues of involving the public in solving water problems. What tools are better to use for working with residents were told by workers of information centers on salmon conservation, housing and communal services and monitoring of Belarusian rivers.

Other presentations of the conference:

See also:

The conference “Towards Prevention Pollution of Water Resource by Introducing Innovative Solutions and Engaging Population at Municipal Level” was held in the framework of the Water and Health Campaign with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the project “Demand for Good Governance in Housing and Utility Sector” financed by the European Union.