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Citys Rivers Top Pollution Rankings

Published: June 8, 2010 (Issue # 1580)



  • A photograph of toxic pollution on the Slavyanka River taken by activists from the international environmental pressure group Greenpeace on Saturday.
    Photo: Vadim Kantor / For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Ecologists claim that local firms have been dumping waste in waterways.
    Photo: Vadim Kantor / For The St. Petersburg Times

St. Petersburg has the most polluted rivers of the Volga-Baltic waterways, according to the results of a research expedition carried out by the international environmental pressure group Greenpeace on the Beluga II ship along one of Russias key waterways.

The aim of the expedition was to determine pollution levels in Russian rivers. The findings were published Monday.

Mercury and oil products are being dumped freely into local waters, which are badly swamped with copper and other heavy metals as well as other toxic pollutants, said Dmitry Artamonov, head of the St. Petersburg branch of Greenpeace.

In some of the water samples taken from the Slavyanka River, for example, the concentration of copper exceeds the norm by 22 times, and the levels of mercury are six times above the norm.

In May, the ecologists took water samples from the Neva River and other local rivers and canals before the ship moved on to Moscow and further along the route. During the course of its one-month journey, Beluga II covered almost 5,000 kilometers of one of Russias major waterways.

With this expedition we wanted to establish the level of pollution in some of the countrys most important rivers; now we are seeking to publicize the results with an eye to persuading regional authorities to enforce a stronger punishment for the illegal discharge of industrial waste into rivers, said Artamonov. Also, a ban must be introduced by the authorities which would make it impossible for companies to dump their industrial waste into sewage channels. Sewage treatment facilities are not equipped to cope with industrial waste.

According to a recent investigation by Greenpeace, large numbers of local companies try to get away with dumping their waste in the sewage channels.

The issue here is that the citys water treatment facilities were originally designed to deal with sewage, so all the chemicals automatically end up in local waters, explains Alexei Kiselyev, head of Greenpeaces toxic research program. This dangerous practice has to be stopped as soon as possible.

Ecologists say the low level of social responsibility in Russia is the direct result of the general inertia and individualism that reigns in Russian society today.

Most people do not show the slightest interest in things that damage the environment, unless they are directly affected by the consequences, said Artamonov.

Water pollution has remained a major concern in St. Petersburg since Soviet times. Unlike in most European cities, tap water is not drinkable.

With several water-treatment plants operating in the city, 40 percent of the sewage and industrial waste originating in the city the highest level in the past 15 years goes directly into the River Neva and the Gulf of Finland, owing to a shortage of waste treatment facilities, according to City Halls statistics. That figure does not include illegal discharges.

Fines for illegal discharges have little or no impact on the problem, as the amounts payable are too small to make a difference to companies. Critics say fines need to be increased drastically, and economic sanctions must be taken against companies that breach environmental standards.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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