Interregional seminar “The quality of natural waters of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region: how to prevent pollution by nutrients?”,

May 23 in St. Petersburg discussed the quality of natural waters. The controlling authorities, representatives of municipalities, scientists, public organizations and simply active citizens - gardeners, teachers, members of environmental movements - gathered to talk about the pollution of the Baltic Sea waters and drinking water sources of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region with nutrients - nitrogen and phosphorus compounds.

Mikhail Durkin, executive secretary of the Coalition Clean Baltic, spoke about the problem of eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, or blue-green algae overgrowing. 97% of the open areas of the Baltic Sea and 66% of the coastal water area are eutrophied, 40% of the sea bottom surface is lifeless. In 2018, 95% of phosphorus and 70% of the total nitrogen entered the Baltic Sea with river runoff. How to achieve reduced nutrient input? First of all, it is important to properly handle manure, cleaning municipal and non-canalized sewage water.

Representatives of the Neva-Ladoga Basin Water Management (NLBWM), the Committee of State Environmental Supervision of the Leningrad Region and the Committee on Environmental Management and Environmental Protection of St. Petersburg presented activities that are held in the city and region to detect violations of environmental legislation. According to them punishment system alone is not enough, a complex of measures is needed: from the elimination of gaps in legislation to the broad involvement of civil society in identifying and solving problems.

Marina Kazmina, deputy head of NLBWM, noted the significant role of basin councils - associations of executive authorities, large water users, public organizations - in river basin management. Such councils have been created in all basin districts (a total of 21 in Russia), and 2 times a year their meetings are held to find solutions to problems.                                                                                                            

Mikhail Strakhov, Head of the Water Resources Department of the City Committee for Nature Management, spoke about the plans of St. Petersburg to completely eliminate untreated wastewater drains by 2022. Now, according to the State Unitary Enterprise Vodokanal of St. Petersburg, wastewater for nitrogen and phosphorus is purified by 98.6%, 90 wastewater drains still need to be liquidated. Mikhail Strakhov emphasized that for individual houses on gardening sites within the city, the best solution is co-operation of sewage in one drainage into a water body. One of existing problems in the whole country is a high degree of wear of wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), while the “Ecology” national project does not include measures for repair and construction of WWTP, only for the Volga basin. Strakhov noted the importance of developing a legal framework, as this determines the distribution of powers and funding.

 Andrei Yermolov, the deputy head of the Leningrad Region Committee of State Environmental Supervision, noted that with rare exceptions, all enterprises are violators of environmental legislation, environmental issues are not in the first place among enterprises. Thus, the fire inspectorate has the right to close an enterprise without a court decision, while the environmental inspectorate does not have such a right. In summer comes quite a lot of complaints on the manure runoff of agricultural enterprises, summer residents' complaints about neighbors who do not clean their wastewater. Inspectors go to check of every complaint and write out fines and prescriptions.

Friends of the Baltic and Ecocentrum presented the results of the Barents-Baltic Nature and People Program in the Leningrad Region and the project “Small-scale solutions to reduce nutrient load into the Baltic Sea”. The discussion focuses on the pollution of water resources by farm wastewater, outdated wastewater treatment plants and flooding, which lead to the washing out of nutrients from the land into water bodies. The pollution of the springs also turned out to be acute: their quality is not always checked, and many people use such water as drinking water. Like the Friends of the Baltic, the North-West Department of Rosgeology is dealing with this problem: together with the Petersburg Bloggers Community, they analyze springs in the Leningrad Region. Our team looks forward to cooperation and joint projects. Friends of the Baltic presented to the participants of the event the Map of Public Monitoring of Water Quality. The Map of Springs Water Monitoring was represented by Rosgeology – it is shows the importance of such work.

The problem of pollution by nutrients is particularly relevant for transboundary rivers. If an enterprise in one country have unauthorized wastewater drains, the controlling authorities of another state will not be able to influence the situation. The water quality of transboundary waters and coastal zones is being investigated in the new Russian-Finnish project SEVIRA. At the seminar, Ecocentrum experts spoke about the role of NGOs in public research on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland.

Important topic is non-canalized drainage of gardenings and small rural settlements. The most common type of toilet in the countryside is a toilet with unsealed cesspools. At the same time there is an alternative - a dry toilet. Demonstration complexes "Dry Ecological Toilet" are installed in 4 districts of the Leningrad Region and are open for visitors.

On May 24, Friends of the Baltic and Ecocentrum organized an educational tour dedicated to wastewater treatment solutions in rural areas.  

The experience of Belarus and Poland in wastewater treatment, working with public awareness and public monitoring of water qualities was presented. Many offers are very relevant for russian conditions.


The workshop participants developed a number of proposals to improve the situation and solve the problem of pollution by the nutrients of the Baltic Sea basin water bodies. At the state level, the proposals are aimed at strengthening of legislative control over enterprises: an increase of fines, increased inspections; widespread information about violations and offenders at the country level. Improving the administrative control system: expanding oversight functions for local authorities; an increase in the percentage of funding to improve the environmental situation in the regions; scaling successful regional projects, for example, “Springs of the Leningrad Region” at the federation level.

At the regional and local levels, the proposals concerned conducting large-scale information work through educational campaigns in regional media, speaking to key categories of citizens – gardeners, rural residents; development of educational programs for schoolchildren; the possibility of getting free information on the status of water bodies. At the regional level, it was proposed to apply for the Government of the Leningrad Region to hold contests by the Committee on Natural Resources to receive grants for monitoring of water bodies; on the organization of a competition for water users in nominations to disseminate the best experience; changes of laws on the organization of groundwater monitoring; development of wells and springs network observers.