Compiled Pollution Data from All Baltic Sea Countries Released
24 November 2011, HELCOM Information Service – The Fifth Baltic Sea Pollution Load Compilation (PLC-5) about total waterborne loads of nutrients and some hazardous substances to the Baltic Sea is now available on the HELCOM website. The long-awaited report compiles the assessed data collected by all the nine HELCOM states around the Baltic Sea. Since 1994 the HELCOM member states have annually reported their loads to the Baltic Sea and in between 1994 and 2008 only, the overall reduction in phosphorus was almost 20 percent. For nitrogen the overall input has decreased as well albeit less significantly.
The Fifth Compilation report introduces for the first time flow-normalization as well as statistical trend analysis of nutrient load data. According to the report, the main origins of nitrogen and phosphorus inputs continue to be diffuse sources, especially agriculture. Riverine loads are much higher than direct loads from point and diffuse sources to the Baltic Sea. The large catchment areas with major rivers such as the Neva, Vistula, Oder, Nemunas and Daugava are also the main sources of nutrient inputs into the Baltic Sea. The area-specific loads of nutrients are typically greatest in sub-regions with intensive agricultural activity, many industries and high population density.
The reductions in nutrient discharges have mostly taken place in the municipal wastewater treatment and industrial sectors in HELCOM countries. Over the long term, these sectors have been most successful in reducing their discharges into the Baltic Sea. According to the PLC-5 data, nutrient losses from anthropogenic diffuse sources accounted for about 45 per cent of the total reported phosphorus and nitrogen loads into the Baltic Sea and of this, the share emanating from agriculture was about 70 - 90 per cent for nitrogen and 60 - 80 per cent for phosphorus.
It is challenging to determine the effectiveness of pollution prevention measures over time, in particular because riverine pollution loads are affected by climatic conditions. Water flow in rivers varies over time, mainly as a result of variations in rainfall and temperature. Smoothing out the effect of such variations in water flow, through flow-normalization, is necessary for determining long term trends and for assessing whether HELCOM countries are achieving the provisional nutrient reduction targets that they agreed upon in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan in 2007.
With still a clear need to further reduce nutrient inputs to the Baltic Sea, the PLC-5 report presents an approach for estimating the nutrient reduction potentials in different sectors.
An Executive Summary of the PLC-5, including the most recent data on air- and waterborne loads to the Baltic Sea, will be released in early 2012.
Note to Editors:
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, more usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission or HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organisation of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union, working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure the safety of navigation in the region.
HELCOM was established in 1974 as the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," known as the Helsinki Convention.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Seppo Knuuttila
PLC-5 Project Manager
Finnish Environment Institute SYKE
Tel: +358 40 760 9232
Ms. Johanna Laurila
Tel: +358 40 523 8988