LIFE+ Project   

Background of the project:

In 2008 the EU enforced new directives which established obligations for the Member States to report on the occurrence of priority substances and priority hazardous substances and their concentrations in the water environment. When preparing the application for the LIFE+ Programme, the project team knew that there was a lack of information on the occurrence of Water Framework Directive (WFD) priority hazardous substances in the Baltic States’ surface waters as well as on the primary sources of these hazardous substances. Moreover, screening and source tracking of hazardous substances in the Baltic States’ surface and waste waters had not been conducted previously. Neither industrial enterprises nor state authorities know exactly how many hazardous substances are placed on the market in raw materials or in mixtures, how many of these substances are emitted from the industrial processes or products and from where the hazardous substances are released into our waters. This means that no appropriate long-term decisions can be made until there is enough reliable data on the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals.

Furthermore, it was observed that the synergies between different legislations are not fully used to enhance the implementation and enforcement of water legislation. Although the legislation exists, the tools and methodology for identifying hazardous substances relevant for a specific company profile are not developed sufficiently. The quality of current permit applications and the permits themselves must be improved in order to make them an effective tool for the efficient enforcement of the water legislation. Furthermore, it was obvious that the general public of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has a limited understanding of the origin and impact of hazardous substances, which is insufficient for demanding serious action from authorities and industries.

The main objectives of the project were:

To investigate the occurrence of selected hazardous substances in the water environment of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania;

  • To investigate the potential sources of such hazardous substances;
  • To propose possible substance reduction strategies and make proposals for future water monitoring programmes for the national authorities;
  • To improve the effectiveness of the environmental permitting system;
  • To enhance the quality of chemical management in enterprises – detection, use and substitution;
  • To raise awareness and facilitate networking between Baltic stakeholders.

Project activities:

In this project we focussed on the hazardous substances listed in the EU Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy) as priority and priority hazardous substances, HELCOM substances of specific concern to the Baltic Sea and some other pollutants which our team deemed potentially problematic for the Baltic Sea. All of the substances under observation are persistent, toxic, bioaccumulative and, because of these properties, are hazardous to the water environment. The Member States are required to reduce or stop the use of such substances in order to achieve a good quality of the surface waters.

130 different substances from 12 substances groups were investigated (alkylphenols and their ethoxylates, organotin compounds, polybrominated diphenyleters, short and medium chain chlorinated paraffins, phthalates, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, heavy metals, perfluorinated substances), many of which have been investigated for the first time in the Baltic States. Samples were taken from the surface waters and their bottom sediments as well as from the effluents and sewage sludge of waste water treatment plants in Estonia and Latvia. Also, in order to investigate the possible sources of the previously mentioned substances in the Baltic Sea, analyses were conducted in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania of hazardous substances in the waste water produced in different industries, waste water produced in specific types of businesses, such as laundries and car washing facilities, filtrates from landfills, and sewage water from residential areas.

Another activity was related to hazardous substance mapping at plant level. Altogether, seven partner enterprises from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania participated in the activity where the project team helped map the chemicals in use and provided an example of how to fill a chemical substance inventory. Based on the inventories, hazardous substances were identified in the partner enterprises and possible substitution scenarios were worked out in cooperation with experts.

The project also actively involved all stakeholders in the improvement of environmental permits. Permitting is one of the main instruments for regulating hazardous substance use and discharge in enterprises. However, this instrument has been used very superficially in all three Baltic States. This has led the project team to encourage the Baltic countries to change their legislations and initiate knowledge and capacity building in state authorities and enterprises.

Ourcomes & Results

The screening of surface waters showed that hazardous substances are present in the environment of the three Baltic States.Substances which are hazardous to the aquatic environment and were detected in both surface waters and bottom sediments in the Baltic States include organotin compounds, phthalates, alkylphenols and their etoxylates and polybrominated diphenylethers. However, no violations of environmental quality standards were detected in the case of the majority of investigated substances – permitted limits were exceeded only in some cases.

According to the source tracking of hazardous substances, the industries which are most likely emitting such substances in the Baltic States are metal processing and galvanic industries, industries that produce building materials, wood and pulp industries, and industries that produce chemicals, textiles and plastics. Also, a significant amount of pollution is produced by car wash and laundry effluents, waste water from households and run-offs and leakages from industrial areas and shipyards.
The project identified the need for a public information campaign on the use of hazardous substances in products and their impact on human health and the environment in connection with the hazardous substance pollution which is coming from households.
Upon cooperating with partner enterprises the project identified the need for a chemical substance inventory tool at the enterprise level as well as the need for more knowledge and training on this topic. On the other hand, the cooperation process allowed us to show that a technical measure like the substitution of hazardous substances in processes and products can be achieved without major investment costs.
The expert work on investigation of the permitting system, conducted within the framework of the project, has shown that the quality of environmental permits is poor in terms explicit requirements being established for companies to institute good hazardous substance management practices. This is mainly due to the lack of accurate information about the specific ingredients of mixtures that are used in enterprises.
The training approach – bringing different stakeholders, such as industries, various ministries, inspectorates and permitting authorities together – has been very successful and has shown that such informal communication among all these target groups is very much needed and helps initiate dialogue with an eye towards harmonizing the approach to enhancing the management and control of hazardous substances in enterprise and in environment.

Traditionally policy is formulated based on single policy sectors – crosscutting and holistic thinking is difficult. However, the modern European legal frameworks are becoming more complex and more interlinked. This is one of the main problems for our region and our institutions that are staffed by officials who still lack complex information and skills, while also suffering from significant down-sizing and brain drain as result of the recent economic crisis.

Kertu-Kirit Sild
Project Manager
Tel.: +372 6597 028
Fax: +372 6597 027

Valters Toropovs
Country Coordinator
Tel.: +371 6735 7546
Fax: +371 6750 7071

Justė Buzelytė
Country Coordinator
Tel.: +370 5213 8155
Fax: +370 5213 5068

The project “Baltic Actions for the reduction of Pollution of the Baltic Sea from Priority Hazardous Substances” (BaltActHaz) is co-financed with the contribution of the LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Community /Project nr. LIFE07 ENV EE 000122/.