About Clean Baltic Sea projects

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Targets and operating principles

The Clean Baltic Sea projects of the John Nurminen Foundation focus on two areas:

1. Projects preventing the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea
2. The Tanker Safety project which reduces the risk of oil accidents in the Gulf of Finland

The target of the eutrophication projects is to bring about visible improvement in the status of the Baltic Sea by reducing nutrient loads entering the sea, and consequently preventing eutrophication. In order to reach this goal, the Foundation’s projects boost the efficiency of nutrient removal from wastewaters, and reduce nutrient loads in the entire Baltic Sea catchment area.

The goal of the Tanker Safety project is to significantly reduce the risk of an oil accident on the Gulf of Finland. To achieve this goal, the Foundation has together with the principal maritime actors created the ENSI® navigation service, which improves the possibilities for advance planning in marine traffic control by providing an easy way to share a route plan digitally between the vessel and the traffic control stations on land. ENSI is owned by Finnish Transport Agency and it is the most advanced eNavigation project in Scandinavia, and the only system already in use. The Foundation concluded the Tanker Safety project in summer 2014, and going forward, Finnish Traffic Agency will promote the implementation of ENSI service on the Gulf of Finland and also the entire Baltic Sea.

Operating principles of the Clean Baltic Sea projects

The goal of the Clean Baltic Sea projects is to act where with the least cost a biggest possible positive environmental impact can be achieved.

The Clean Baltic Sea projects strive to combine the expertise and resources of both the public and private sectors in a way that best benefits the Baltic Sea. Leading Finnish experts are consulted in the search for projects with the greatest impact on the status of the Baltic Sea. Moreover, the Foundation is regularly in touch with all key political players with the aim of promoting the protection of the Baltic Sea. The Foundation co-operates and communicates also with other NGOs involved in the protection of the Baltic Sea. The eutrophication projects cooperate with various stakeholders in areas such as financing, technical planning, and construction.
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As a small and flexible third-sector player, we are able to establish and lead projects with a faster schedule than would be possible for more established structures. Through its operations, the Foundation can accelerate projects that are critical to the status of the Baltic Sea, and act as a catalyst in partnerships and cooperation projects that cross state borders and the boundaries between the private and public sectors.
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The cooperation of various stakeholders who work on issues related to the Baltic Sea and eutrophication is coordinated by the Foundation’s advisory team. Team members include representatives of the Finnish Environment Institute, the Finnish ministries of the Environment and Foreign Affairs, WWF, Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP), and the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB). The chairman of the team is Veli Sundbäck, a member of the John Nurminen Foundation’s Board of Directors.
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 The principles of the Foundation’s environmental operations:

 • Concrete measures

• Measurable impact on the condition of the Baltic Sea

• Fast results

• Cost efficiency

• Co-operation across borders

Project targets and their selection criteria

The cooperation targets of the Foundation’s eutrophication projects are selected on the basis of project feasibility, measurable environmental impact, and cost-efficiency. In addition to ongoing projects, the Foundation is actively searching for project targets everywhere in the Baltic Sea catchment area where nutrient loads entering the Baltic Sea could be reduced through, for example, more efficient wastewater treatment.

All projects are presented to the Board for approval. The criteria for approval include the reduced phosphorous tonnage, the cost-efficiency of the projects and a rapid implementation timetable.
Funds raised for the eutrophication projects are, amongst other things, invested in equipment, used for commissioning technical surveys, or used for the payroll expenses of employees working for the Foundation’s projects. Projects led by the Foundation do not involve transferring money to our partners: the Foundation organises bidding contests for suppliers and consultants, and pays them directly for any deliveries.

When approving new projects, it is always taken into account that commitments must not exceed the amount of funds raised. In addition to Foundation’s part, partial funding from public sectors or other private organizations is always seeked. For example, the joint project between the Water Utility of St. Petersburg and the Foundation was funded by
50%/50% principle. The cost of the project was altogether five million euros, of which the Foundation covered 2.5 million euros. Also, the Finnish Ministry of Environment covered a share from the Foundation’s half. The Foundation’s part included overall project management, personnel costs, technical planning and consulting, investments in the equipment required for chemical phosphorus removal, and supervising the implementation.

The first Clean Baltic Sea project was initiated in 2005 in St. Petersburg, and its objective of an annual reduction of over 1,000 tonnes of phosphorus was reached in 2011. All in all, the phosphorus load entering the Baltic Sea from St. Petersburg has diminished by 1,700 tonnes (70%) from 2004, equalling a reduction of almost 30% in the phosphorus load of the Gulf of Finland (HELCOM). In terms of environmental impact, the Foundation’s St. Petersburg project is one of the most significant water protection projects ever carried out in the Baltic Sea.

Annual phosphorus load of the Baltic Sea by country and by source

The annual phosphorus load entering the Baltic Sea annually consists mostly of nonpoint source load (agriculture, sparsely populated areas) and communal wastewaters. The countries where the largest discharges originate are Poland and Russia, which also have the highest populations. Loads from Belarus and Ukraine, which are not included in the graphs, are included in the external loads of the coastal countries; this load enters the Baltic Sea essentially with river runoffs from Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Natural background load is the nutrient load created in waterways without human involvement. Source: HELCOM PLC-5 and PLC-5.5

The fastest way to cut the phosphorus load of the Baltic Sea by the year 2021: Municipal wastewaters

By far the greatest source of the nutrient load entering the Baltic Sea is non-point load from agriculture. According to the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission HELCOM, however, the sea can still be helped fastest by concentrating on the remaining large point sources. This is particularly true for phosphorus, the key nutrient of blue-green algae and the central cause of eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. According to HELCOM, the annual phosphorus load entering the Baltic Sea needs to be cut by a further ca. 9,500 tonnes in order for the Baltic Sea to reach a good condition by the year 2021. According to estimates, as much as two thirds of this goal can be achieved by further improving phosphorus removal at the city wastewater treatment plants.

John Nurminen Foundation’s priorities in prevention of eutrophication for the coming years

In terms of the status of the Baltic Sea it is crucial that the wastewaters of all Polish cities, including cities that are small and mid-size, are treated in line with HELCOM recommendations i.e. with phosphorus levels of max 0.5 mg per wastewater litre leaving the treatment plant. This would lead to an astounding reduction of 2,500 tonnes of phosphorus in the annual load entering the Baltic Sea. Phosphorus removal from wastewaters has to be improved also in Belarus, Kaliningrad, the Baltic countries and in the Leningrad Oblast (region). The Foundation is actively identifying new project targets in these areas.