Second major sewage spill hits western region

  • 2007-03-21
  • By Arturas Racas
VILNIUS - Up to 40,000 tons of untreated sewage spilled into the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea during an incident in Lithuania's port city of Klaipeda. The sewage began flowing on March 18 after a pipe at the Klaipedos Vandenys utility company broke. The leakage was only stopped two days later, on the morning of the 20th.

The incident happened only two weeks after another ecological disaster occurred in the region. On March 4 some 12,000 tons of sewage spilled from a farming company in the Silute district, less than 100 kilometers from Klaipeda. In that incident, an estimated 5,000 tons of sewage poured into open waters and may have reached the Baltic Sea. The damage to the environment was estimated at some 2 million litas, environment officials said later.

The impact of the Klaipeda incident may be even worse.
"We do not have precise estimates of how much sewage spilled out during these two days and what the damage to the environment is. We had reports on Monday that some 23,500 cubic meters had leaked out, so the total amount could reach up to 40,000 cubic meters," Rolandas Ausra, director of Klaipeda Environment Protection Depart-ment told The Baltic Times.
Lithuanian public radio reported that Klaipedos Vandenys had first tried to collect the sewage in reservoirs, but it failed to repair the pipe before the tanks overflowed. The company then decided to direct the sewage to the Curonian Lagoon to prevent it from reaching the city.

Leonas Makunas, director of Klaipedos Vandenys, said that the pipe, which had been installed almost 30 years ago, has suffered 38 similar incidents to date, including a major leakage in December 2006, when some 27,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage spilled into the Baltic Sea.
Ausra, however, said that the incident, despite the large amount of leaked sewage, will not have a long-term impact on the environment.

"It was domestic sewage, which is not very concentrated and dangerous to the environment. According to preliminary estimates the leakage amounts to some 1 percent of annual pollution and it will rinse quite fast," he said.
He also noted that the disaster will not have negative effects on Baltic Sea beaches.
"It is not high season and the weather is comparatively cold, so we do not expect a major pollution of the sea," Ausra added.
The official refused to speculate what the overall damage to the environment could be, saying it depends on how much sewage spilled on the ground and in local rivers.

"During the last incident in 2005, the company was fined 8,000 litas for environmental damage and also had to pay some 10,000 in additional pollution taxes. But much less sewage had spilled on the ground that time," he said.