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Call for Urgent Actions to Reduce Hazardous Substances in the Baltic Sea


COHIBA Project identifies major sources, pathways and measures for priority Baltic hazardous substances

Helsinki, Finland 11 October 2011 (HELCOM Information Service) - Project on Control of Hazardous Substances in the Baltic Sea Region (COHIBA), initiated to support the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), highlights its main results in a conference starting today.

The present state of the Baltic Sea calls for immediate actions of, not only reduction of nutrient load (eutrophication), but also reduction of the load of Persistent, Bioaccumulative and/or Toxic substances. Almost all open sea areas of the Baltic Sea, except north western Kattegat, are classified as being ‘disturbed by hazardous substances' (HELCOM 2010). The HELCOM countries, all nine states around the Baltic Sea, have committed themselves to achieve a "Baltic Sea with life undisturbed by hazardous substances" by 2021 (BSAP, 2007).

Through testing with the innovative Whole Effluent Assessment, the Project applied chemical and toxicological screening of major sources of hazardous substances to the Baltic Sea. To complement this, screening substance flow analyses (SFA) were conducted and the Project has created a unique set of data on emission estimates for substances listed in the Baltic Sea Action Plan.
Measures to reduce substance specific emissions are important but not sufficient to reach the BSAP targets - cross-cutting measures are equally relevant. Because of the change in source pattern, measures targeting municipal waste water, landfill leachate and urban run-off are also becoming more important.

For many substances, waste and waste water are important pathways for emission of hazardous substances. The existing level of waste water treatment in the Baltic Sea area is not sufficient, especially if respective regulations have not yet been fully implemented. Hence advanced municipal waste water treatment may further contribute to reduction of emissions of various of the 11 BSAP hazardous substances simultaneously, as well as other substances of potential concern, such as pharmaceuticals.

COHIBA indicates that bans and restrictions of substance use have had effects on emissions. Long service life of articles does however lead to the build-up of stocks which delays the decrease of emissions. This results in increasingly important role of diffuse sources although industrial sources remain to be relevant within the region.

For several of the substances, long-range atmospheric transport is an important pathway into the region. To reduce the load of these substances to the Baltic Sea, besides emission reduction measures on Baltic Sea catchment scale, additional measures on a global level are required.
For implementation of emission reduction measures, different local boundary conditions have to be taken into account, such as structure of industries and occurrence of industrial processes, different use patterns of products containing hazardous substances, different degree of implementation of core measures (required EU legislation), "hot spots" such as heavily contaminated rivers, and importance of residential combustion as source for cadmium or dioxins.

In the Eastern Baltic Sea Region, COHIBA has provided valuable and new information about potential instruments for reduction of hazardous substances to stakeholders.

COHIBA also confirmed importance of documented quality of the data to be used in substance flow analysis, modelling, cost efficiency analysis etc. for these results to be a reliable base for decision making. In a measurement campaign (e.g. a screening) all the consecutive steps - sampling, storage, pre-treatment, analysing, reporting - should be carried out in a reliable and harmonized way. There is also a need for more measured data both on environmental levels and on emission factors.

Note to Editors:
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU which works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution.
HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," known as the Helsinki Convention.

Baltic Sea Action Plan
The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan is an ambitious programme to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment by 2021. The Baltic Sea Action Plan addresses all the major environmental problems affecting the Baltic marine environment.

Control of Hazardous Substances in the Baltic Sea Region (COHIBA)
COHIBA is three year project (2009-2012) co-financed by the European Union within the Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007-2013. Its total budget amounts to around EUR 4.9 million. In 8 countries, 22 partners are involved. The COHIBA aims to contribute to implementation of the goals of the BSAP by developing joint actions for
identifying the most important sources of 11 hazardous substances of special concern,
- quantifying inputs of the selected substances to the Baltic Sea,
- analysing the pathways of the selected substances from production, processes and uses to the marine environment,
- creating cost-effective management options to reduce discharges and
- contributing the development of national implementation programmes
The COHIBA project is also one of the flagship projects of the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

For more information, please contact:
Ms. Johanna Laurila
Information Secretary
Tel: +358 (0) 40 523 8988
Fax: +358 (0)207 412 645

Ms. Ansa Pilke
Project Manager
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
Tel: +358 (0) 40 834 6537
Fax: +358 (0)9 5490 2390


published 21.10.2011