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In the Spotlight
Interview with Elzbieta Łysiak-Pastuszak, Institute of Meteorology and Water Management, National Research Institute, Maritime Branch in Gdynia, Department of Oceanography and Baltic Sea Monitoring
Member of HELCOM JAB CORESET/TARGREV
1. Being employed at the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management in Poland for close to 40 years, you have a long experience in the field of research related to eutrophication issues. Throughout this time, which main tendencies in relation to the condition of the Baltic Sea would you choose?
There are naturally many ways to look at “main tendencies” and whether this refers to political tendencies, or the preferred indicators, classification systems or methodologies, among others.
In Poland I would say it is the general recognition of the sea as such and its ecological problems which has altered. We, i.e. people living at the sea shore, have a saying that the Baltic is not “visible” from Warszawa. And this attitude is changing since the accession to EU.
Regarding eutrophication issue the shift of focus from physico-chemical status to biology is a definite step forward to better understanding of the process. As I am a chemist by education, I would choose the oxygen situation in the near bottom water – the seasonal hypoxia – as the core indicator of the eutrophication progress.
2. In your opinion, what are the Polish priorities in reaching the targets for reducing eutrophication?
This is a rather political question. Regarding the measures undertaken against eutrophication, the Polish governments –at least the three latest in sequence – put much effort to waste management and water management in general and water protection in particular. Nitrogen and phosphorus removal efficiency is still in focus as well as getting more municipalities and settlements connected to the waste water treatment plants. That is how and why in 2010, the second waste collector in Poland was constructed in the Gulf of Gdańsk with an outfall at ca. 2.5 km distance into the sea.
However, I would say that too little is done regarding scattered settlement areas and single houses, especially summer house areas and summer holiday camps along the Polish coast. Some effort was also put into public awareness raising and ecological education, e.g. there was a press campaign about Water Framework Directive (WFD), marine environment status classification etc. in a daily paper, but I think not many people noticed – it was thought to be just another “advertisment” spot. I know because I asked a number of people about it, pointing out that it was my job (i.e. status classification).
3. In your view, what would be the most imminent or important future steps to take in your country in fighting eutrophication and why? How to realize these actions?
I consider the improvement of water quality to be the priority, i.e. the realization of Water Framework Directive requirements, such as implementation of measures described in the water management plans for rivers’ catchment areas. This would include further modification and construction of waste water treatment plants (the goal is 75% reduction of N and P in wastes), implementation of measures in areas designated as nitrogen sensitive, construction of reservoirs or tanks for liquid manure and manure storage facilities in majority of farms, the last being a goal I personally prioritize, etc.
Research and technical development, including the development of monitoring networks and revision of monitoring programmes, are crucial. The governmental documents also mention close cooperation with the Baltic countries under the umbrella of HELCOM. To me there is too little attention paid to education and awareness raising as well as public consultations. And to add one more of my personal priorities: the reduction in the use of phosphorus-rich detergents. I believe this would include also modification and modernization of “tap” water production. Since most tap water in Poland is very hard, containing a lot of lime, Ca, Mg, sulphates and Fe, many are using aggressive cleaning agents to keep the lime off in the bathrooms and kitchens, and most of those aggressive cleaning agents have phosphoric acid as the main component. Nothing is done regarding advertising the non-P detergents – on the contrary, the spots advertising the use of very aggressive agents are prolific on TV.
How to realize these actions? I believe the financial support of EU will be necessary.
4. What is your next assignment related to HELCOM you would like to highlight?
I am a member of the group of Polish experts working on the Initial Assessment for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in Poland and a member of HELCOM JAB CORESET/TARGREV.