Youth environmental monitoring of the Baltic Sea basin – outcomes and plans

On 20 October the 18th annual interregional youth conference related to environmental monitoring of rivers and the Gulf of Finland was conducted. More than 80 young researchers, teachers, scientists, and NGOs’ experts took part.

The event was held by Friends of the Baltic (NGO) and PETERHOF Youth Center for additional education in collaboration with Krestovsky Island environmental center and Ecocentrum with the support of Coalition Clean Baltic and the Baltic Sea Conservation Foundation.

Young participants introduced the results of their researches, made some suggestions on improving water quality, and summarized the experience in cooperating with decision-makers. For instance, Daria Kudina (school № 403) prepared her speech on Laskoviy (rus. «tender») beach in Solnechnoye. The girl gave the audience some details on environmental impact, actual use of land (or current use), violations of water protection standards, flora and fauna condition in coastal zone. The young researcher also analyzed the waste situation: plastic makes up the majority with the following ratio: 80% of disposable tableware, 5% of polyethylene, 5% of plastic bottles, 5% of plastic lids. Also, the samples of microplastics in coastal waters appeared to be positive: two particles per 100 m. Thus, Daria appealed to local authorities and government of St. Petersburg via website portal.

One of the reports provided the information about critical exceed of nitrate and phosphate concentration in a number of ponds in Kurortny District. Pollution was detected near Gorokhoviy gardening association sewers, and results were confirmed via test strips and laboratory experiments: more that 70 mg/L of nitrate, up to 200 mg/L of nitrate at wastewater release. Allocation of nitrate pollution has to be found as quickly as possible.

High school students did a severe research on water condition of the northern coast of the Gulf of Finland. Druzhinnoe Lake (on the territory of Shchuchye Lake PA), the Starozhilovka River (drainage system of Suzdal Lakes and Lakhtinsky Razliv), and the ponds of Sosnovsky Park in the northern part of St. Petersburg were investigated. According to the report, the increase of anthropogenic impact (housing estate building near the Starozhilovka River) or environmental impact (Druzhinnoe Lake case) led to water pollution that could be confirmed via hydrobiological and chemical indicators. At the same time, the water quality could be improved in a year or two by 1-2 classes if the anthropogenic impact was reduced.

The pupils of Creative Development Center in Kingisepp conducted a hydrological study of the Luga River within Kingisepp, in the area of former Pobeda tannery, and also researched the composition of macrobenthos taken from 3 sections of the river that experienced the anthropogenic impact. Those were: the riverbank in the Lesobirzha district (private sector, allotment cottages), the riverbank near the bridge to the tannery (allotment cottages), the riverbank near the rescue station in Kingisepp (storm drain).

For the hydrobiological analysis, Titova Alyona, 5th grade student of school № 4, chose one of the most challenging river reaches that was located near former Pobeda tannery where the river’s divided into two branches. The factory was built right there. The main stream bed had been dammed by former hydraulic facilities, and the bridge piers were built there later.
During the low flow, the water is 10–20 cm above those building boards, and it falls like a small waterfall to the opposite side. In the period of high water, the water level rises sharply, concrete pillars slightly block the flow, thus it falls on the other side noisily. The bridges laid through the Luga river and the anabranch connect Kingisepp and Zarechye district.

Hydrobiological examination included current velocity detection, cross-sectional area modeling, discharge estimation in areas and in total. Moreover, the results of two-year observation were analyzed. The research began in the middle of September, 2017, right after the heavy rain (high water). The summer 2018 was dry (low water). The Luga River example through the сollected data indicated that climatic conditions affected the water level directly: in dry season (2018) the discharge reduced by three times compared to rainy 2017. The report authors suggested continuing the examination next year. Also, they proposed to start an educational campaign among pupils that would be related to rules of conduct on water during the high flow.

Margarita Lyadova, the 9th grade student of school № 2 (Sosnovy Bor) challenged herself to test the following hypothesis: the water of the northern coast of the Gulf of Finland is good-quality in comparison with the water of the southern part. For that research, the water samples of various sources of the northern (Lysii Nos River) and the southern (Shepelevo River) coasts of the Gulf of Finland were taken. The samples were taken from the Gulf of Finland, rivers, wells, and taps in both territories. Water was tested for the following indicators: PH, hardness, metal cations (Mn, Al). According to the preliminary findings, the Southern coast water quality is better, perhaps, due to the fact that there’s no factories there (Shepelevo village area). However, the results required additional verification of samples at different seasons, repeatedly. Margarita also intended to include nitrate analysis in her research next year.

Chemical testing was also held in Pushkinsky District: Kirichenko Alisa, the 8th grade student of school № 403, studied the water in Pushkin. At the majority of cases, there was no excess of nitrate, ammonia or iron, with the exception of ditchwater along the roads (increase of iron and nitrate amount) and the water near railway bridge. The research indicated anthropogenic contamination of culvert from the transport routes, the maximum - from the acting railway.

Justina Zhukova (school № 412) also presented the results of her research on nitrate. The water samples of Zarya gardening association in Gatchinsky District showed insignificant nitrate excess. At the same time, critical elevations (more than TLV) were discovered in water of holy well in Staraya Ladoga (rural locality). We hope that further monitoring and water research will be done.
The most intriguing reports in “Inhabitat and human health” section were related to microplastics presence in everyday cosmetics, body wash products in particular. Such detailed analysis of the hot topic was carried out by Sofia Afanasyeva (Sertolovo school № 2). The researchers expressed their willingness to continue the investigation, thus we hope to get new interesting results next year.
Alongside water quality topic students discussed the human health issue. Impressive researches on pupils health were done. Andrey Nichiporuk (school № 430) conducted a survey, and based on its results created several graphs. Alena Titova (school № 430) presented a unique methodology for studying the healing properties of phytoncide through the sour milk. The youngest participants from lyceum № 395 introduced the results of measuring dust level by lichen indication method within the school territory. Also, the pupils investigated the health of trees.

The conference was held under the Oranienbaum Palettes and Barents-Baltic programs, Nature and People and River Observation programs of Coalition Clean Baltic, and the Baltic Conservation Fund’s projects “More Baltic, less plastic” and “Small-scale local solutions to reduce nutrient load into the Baltic Sea”.