Neva river drowned in mazut: reservoirs of the Northwestern region threatened with ecological catastrophe

“Neva’s majestic stream” mentioned by famous Russian poet Pushkin in his poem “Eugene Onegin” is not as majestic as it was in the Russian classic’s time. Now, even on a shoal, the river’s bottom cannot be seen through muddy water. And there are petrol spots everywhere, shimmering with all rainbow colours. As for Neva’s “riverside granite,” mazut lines signify now difference in water levels. On the yearly International Ecological Forum which took place in St Petersburg March 20-23, in Lenexpo Exhibition Complex, ecologists discussed this and many similar issues connected with environment’s protection. Moreover, within the framework of the forum, Ecology of Great City 2002 9th International Exhibition was carried out, in which Russian and foreign companies participated. At the exhibition, projects and up-to-date attainments in the sphere of ecology were shown, as well as ecologically pure technologies were popularized. To the point, Neva’s water, to be more exact, Ladoga lake’s water is unique as for its nature. In the time of Yekaterina II, it was exported to France to wash hair of women of the fashion. As for its softness, Ladoga’s water was like rain water at that time. While now St Petersburg’s water is not pleasant to use, even after being boiled. Even a ruff fished in Neva’s water is now a great event. Though, if even the ruff was fished, it is hardly edible. Moreover, you hardly can bathe in St Petersburg suburb’s reservoirs without being soiled yourself with mazut. While bathing in the city is forbidden at all. According to Mikhail Ignatyev, professor of St Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrument-Making Industry, “oil transporting over Neva river should be maximally reduced, because it is dangerous not only for the river’s ecology, but for such culture values as the Ermitage, the Marble Palace, the State Archives and other memorial on Neva’s banks.” Similar situation, except for the cultural values, could be observed in Gulf of Finland and in Baltic Sea. According to one of the exhibition’s participants, Phoenix Holding stock company’s president Yaroslav Yeroshevsky, oil is one of the most dangerous pollution sources of water areas. The reason, why environment suffers much more now from oil is building of new industry objects, increasing of volume of transported oil and critical state of constructions built in Soviet times. Information: in 1998, traffic of oil in St Petersburg harbour made 5 942,200 tones, while in 2001 – over 9 million tones. Every day, 10 to 15 tankers pass over Neva river. At the moment, oil concentration in Neva’s water is 15 times more than it is admissible for fish industry water use. Yeroshevsky also mentioned some ways of oil ingress into water objects, dividing them to two categories: working ways (for example, effluent of oil-containing waste water from riverside industry objects) and emergency ways (for example, damage of a vessel with fuel reserve on board). It is difficult to say which way is the most dangerous. It should be said, that oil is being transported over Neva river not in special tankers with double sections, but with usual ones, outdated ore-transporting vessels. Hundreds of them moor to St Petersburg mooring line. While new ecologically secure tankers are being built very seldom now. Therefore, tanker’s wrecks are almost guaranteed today. Unfortunately, up-to-date radical measures to guarantee ecological security are not being taken now. While at the same time, it is clear that mankind hardly will refuse from using civilization’s blessings. Therefore, the only way is to work out and to use new secure and efficient technologies, through which ecological security could be guaranteed. A very important role in it, according to Yeroshevsky, belongs to the state or to inter-state bodies, while certain kinds of work could be realized only by specialists possessing necessary material resources, experience and knowledge. In this way, structures of the kind function in developed countries: commercial firms produce equipment and services for ecology. In Russia, much was done within recent years: well structured state bodies were created, which realize a competent control, public opinion was formed and, which is the most important thing, a good market of ecological service was created in Russia. Plants have appeared, for which environmental friendly technologies is a very profitable business. While as for legislation on ecology issues, it is very hard in so-called civilized countries, so persons or organizations guilty of ecological consequences cannot escape penalty. There are exact methods for calculating damages and the sums of compensation. While in our country, so far only emotions work. For example, at the sitting of the city headquarters on transport, it was noticed that of 36 cases of water pollution with oil, only in 14 cases fines were imposed, while these sums are so small, that they hardly would be enough to really compensate the ecological damage. Only one thing could console here: if the state supports ecological forums, it is concerned with the issue. Assistance in realization of the cumulative experience, attempts to change situation to the better – that is a very important task of the state. It is good at least, that there are such companies. The Phoenix Holding successfully works now not only in the Northwestern Region. This firm has been professionally occupying itself with liquidation of oil spills and with overwork of oil for over 5 years. “We started our work because of necessity: we had to secure bunkerages, though ecology gradually became an independent kind of activity and was declared our priority two years ago,” – Yaroslav Yeroshevsky told. The company many times proved to be competent and experienced as for emergency oil spills. Latest incident – September 2001, 520 tones of oil were spilled into water area of St Petersburg harbour. In the area of the town Kronshtadt, CAP TRIUNFO refrigerator of 8 thousand tones displacement got a breach. Oil tanks were injured, that could cause an ecological catastrophe. For several days, works on pumping-down and keeping oil were being carried out, as a result, the incident caused no consequences for Gulf of Finland’s waters. At the moment, the company possess the whole spectrum of effective technologies for recycling of all kinds of oil – from oil-slime to oil-containing waters with 3-5-percent content of hydrocarbons. Phoenix Holding works in different regions of Russia – in Siberia, in Volga region and on objects of petroleum production (TNK, YUKOs and Transneft companies). In the Northwestern Region, Phoenix Holding occupies itself mainly with rectification problems and with protection from oil pollution of Gulf of Finland. “Now, we almost fully secure stable ecological situation in water area of Neva river and of St Petersburg harbours, gathering and utilizing through our own Sever purifying station of oil-containing waters from shipbuilding works and vessels,” – Yeroshevsky said in his speech on the forum. He also stressed that it was only an illusion, that all vessels would be absolutely ecologically secure in the nearest future, because it is too expensive even for the richest countries. This is why, a part of waste products will as usually finish their life ashore. In this sense, it is very important to create purifying constructions in harbours. This problem is as important as the problem of emergency spills, and it also should be financed by the state, and taking into account that Baltic Sea is the united ecological system, by all Scandinavian states. As the region’s dwellers, the company’s leaders are concerned with increase of oil volumes, which pass through the region. Spite this problem has been practically solved by Transneft company and its partners, the question is often remains open. For example, what should be done with gathered waste oil? According to Phoenix Holding, here experts and commercial structures should help, possessing real knowledge and experience. “A very important aspect of our company’s activity is an effective utilization of waste oil without damaging environment,” – Yeroshevsky noticed. – “We possess different technologies and know very well how oil content in water area could be diminished.” For recent two years, Phoenix Holding stock company actively offers its resources, both technical and intellectual for use in different city programmes. For example, at the moment, the company participates in the project of state support for international transport complex St Petersburg 2001-2004. The company’s task is to create checkpoints and to liquidate emergency oil spills in Neva river. According to the project, ecological vessels should constantly stay in the most dangerous places, equipped with necessary communication facility and with all necessary outfits for liquidation of oil spills. In this way, emergency help could be rendered in time, Phoenix Holding company’s leadership supposes.

Anna Radygina

Translated by Vera Solovieva

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