Yesterday, the Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus-Rosimannus claimed that currently polluted river of Virumaa will be clean, in absence of any obstacles, for the year Estonia celebrates its 100th birthday. This year, detailed surface samples will be collected in order to finish evaluating the most appropriate cleaning solutions and environmental impact assessments by the end of 2015. According to the Minister of the Environment, cleaning operations could start in 2016.
"For a long time, cleaning the river of Purtse has been waiting funds to arrive and now, with the help of kind EU's taxpayers, we have decided to invest 15 million euros in elimination of residual pollution inherited from the Soviet era," the Minister explained. The river flows to the Gulf of Finland and is 51 km in length.
In the past, Purtse was one of the most important salmon rivers, but during the Soviet era the river was contaminated with oil shale pollution which made it non-usable. Condition of the river has become better over the years and, reportedly, even salmon has been sighted returning to the river, but generally the situation is still sad.
In 2008, a study commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment indicated, that compared to a situation 30 years ago, pollution in rapid flow segments has significantly decreased. The case is more complicated regarding segments of around Püssi and Kiviõli, where the pollution has been preserved in bottom mud. "In order to improve the situation, we have to work on the river of Purtse as well as its tributaries. It is hard to believe that there is still a river more than fifty kilometres in length that is unsuitable for aquatic organisms and people. After the cleaning, Purtse should yet again ne the very river famous for salmon," the Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said.
During the current and next year, several investigations will be carried out in order to identify the specific pollution spot, its extension and volume and to find the best possible elimination options. Also, environmental impact assessment has to be done in order to prevent polluted bottom mud from spreading. Extent of the polluted area incorporates numerous private properties and operations could be finished by 2018. The Minister of the Environment stressed that cooperation with locals has a vital role to play.
Also, by the end of next year, expenditure of the cleaning operations should be clear which, on the basis of an ex ante assessment, stays within 15 million euros. Within years 2014-2020, European Union funds have given us an opportunity to use 30.6% million euros for cleaning polluted areas and waterbodies and the sum is increased by our own contribution of 5.4 million euros. In addition to the river of Purtse, there is also a plan to clean other challenging waters and make residual pollution objects safer.
The river of Purtse is in Northern Estonia. It begins from the county of Lääne-Virumaa and flows to the Gulf of Finland. The river is 51 km long and its basin is 810 km2. The river of Purtse is one of the most rapid in Estonia.