Right on our doorstep, the Baltic Sea is the world’s most polluted sea. Sponda will donate its Christmas charity funds to the protection of the Baltic Sea and invites other businesses to join this nature conservation campaign.
The Baltic Sea has higher concentrations of metals and toxins than any other sea. Eutrophication is a serious environmental problem, particularly in the nationally important Gulf of Finland. Phosphorus and nitrogen emissions from the wastewaters of cities, industry and agriculture promote the growth of algae and macrophytes. Phosphorus is an especially important factor in the growth of cyanobacteria.
“Phosphorus particularly increases the amount of harmful cyanobacteria, making the sea unsafe for swimming. Cloudy waters and slimy beaches don’t exactly attract people to enjoy activities on and around the sea,” says Marjukka Porvari, Clean Baltic Sea Director at the John Nurminen Foundation.
Algal sludge and changes in fish populations
The consequences of eutrophication also include the lack of oxygen at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, which is caused by the excessive growth of phytoplankton in surface waters. Dead phytoplankton sinks to the bottom of the sea. As it breaks down, it expends oxygen and the process of decomposition begins to generate hydrogen sulfide, which kills the organisms that live near the seabed. Phosphorus stored in the seabed is subsequently activated, which expedites the growth of cyanobacteria.
These changes have a concrete impact on what fishermen can catch for our dinner tables. This leads to changes in the species found in the sea.
“The flounder populations of the Archipelago Sea, for example, have plummeted. In many places, including the waters off my family’s summer cottage, the populations of valuable fish have declined and cyprinid populations have grown,” Porvari adds.
The consequences of eutrophication are ultimately felt by local residents, tourists and entrepreneurs.
The money earmarked for Sponda’s Christmas greetings this year will almost literally flow into the Baltic Sea. Sponda will make a donation to help prevent the eutrophication of the sea by removing phosphorus from wastewaters. This will prevent the growth of as much as 50,000 kilograms of cyanobacteria, allowing us to swim in a clearer Baltic Sea.
According Sponda’s Sustainability Manager Hannamari Koivula, promoting a clean environment is in line with the company’s strategy and values. As environmental responsibility is one of Sponda’s strategic priorities, the company has, for several years, donated the money traditionally reserved for Christmas greetings to support environmental protection efforts.
“We want to protect the Baltic Sea, a sea that is close to us Finns and to Sponda’s operations. Our local sea is sensitive and eutrophied, and the situation is made none the easier by the high level of human activity on the Baltic Sea. The condition of the sea has improved thanks to persistent conservation efforts, but much remains to be done. Sponda wants to be part of this drive,” Koivula says.
The Finnish John Nurminen Foundation will channel the donation to the Kingisepp project next year. The foundation and the Kingisepp water utility will launch enhanced phosphorus removal next year at the Kingisepp water treatment plant in northwestern Russia, near the Estonian border. The foundation will fund and acquire the water treatment equipment.
“With a population of 50,000, Kingisepp is one of the largest remaining sources of emissions into the Baltic Sea in the Leningrad Oblast. We have already carried out corresponding projects in St. Petersburg, Gatchina and Vyborg,” Porvari explains.
Shared responsibility brings results
In spite of the problems and the slowness of recovery that is characteristic of natural processes, there is optimism in the air.
“Thanks to our projects, the nutrient load on the Gulf of Finland has been reduced by 75 per cent in just a few years. This is a unique achievement in global terms,” Porvari says.
Progress in the marine areas off Finland’s western coast is slower, as the Baltic Sea main basin occasionally pushes oxygen-depleted and phosphoric water into those areas. The latest news from Kaliningrad will have a favourable impact on the main basin.
In a blog published on the John Nurminen Foundation website, Porvari wrote “Today, we finally see the long-awaited miracle of Baltic Sea protection, and wastewaters at the Kaliningrad plant are treated in line with HELCOM recommendations. The oxygen-depleted main basin of the Baltic Sea is grateful, as is our own marine area, the recipient of nutrients pushed forward by the waters of the main basin.”
Koivula is equally pleased.
“These achievements in the protection of the Baltic Sea would not be possible without the active roles taken by the parties concerned. We hope to see other businesses and individuals join the effort. We must share the responsibility for ensuring that future generations will also get to enjoy the Baltic Sea.”
Read more and make a donation to support the protection of the Baltic Sea: