Series of waste and oil spillages remains unanswered

  • 2001-07-26
  • BNS
VILNIUS - Raw sewage poured into the Curonian Lagoon after a pipe burst in Klaipeda July 19, sending oil and lubricants into the Neris and Sventoji rivers, the second environmental mishap this month.

Untreated sewage began flowing into the scenic freshwater lagoon when a safety reservoir overflowed before a broken pipe directing it to a treatment plant in Klaipeda could be fixed. Specialists believe a total of 9,000 to 10,000 cubic meters, or about 10 metric tons, of untreated waste entered the lagoon.

The sewage is not expected to do great damage to the marine ecosystem, but when it reached popular swimming sites in the hottest week so far this year in Lithuania it certainly posed a threat to people's health.

On July 24, workers cut through a section of the broken pipe and replaced it with new piping. The sewer along which the pipe burst was mounted some 20 years ago, and the entire system needs replacing. But money is not available.

In 1999 Klaipeda's system of drainage pipes failed, sending 100,000 cubic meters of untreated waste water into the Curonian Lagoon.

The lagoon is a large body of freshwater cut off from the Baltic Sea by the Curonian Spit, a narrow strip of land shared by Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad region. Large rivers, including the Nemunas, feed into it before their water is finally released into the Baltic Sea via a narrow channel next to Klaipeda.

The Environmental Protection Agency in Klaipeda has levied a fine of almost $7,500 against the company Klaipedos Vanduo for damage done to the environment.

Agency representatives said they fined the company $3,640 for damage to the environment and another $3,710 for exceeding allowed limits of water contamination. Klaipedos Vanduo reported that it agreed with the amounts of the fines and would pay up.

Lithuanian environmental protection officials said they did not believe the spill would hit beaches in the Klaipeda area and that the human component of the waste was diluted.

An unknown quantity of pollutants poured into the Sventoji River after an accident at the Antaliepte hydroelectric power station in eastern Lithuania on July 19.

According to Lionginas Kairys, director of the company Ekoelektra, which operates the power station, the preliminary version is that a pipe broke in the power station and the river's waters flooded subsidiary premises where lubricated spare parts were stored. The lubricants may have entered the river.

Firefighters and officers from the civil security department and other services worked hard to contain the damage at the scene.

"All the spillage has been collected. We are conducting the final laboratory tests at the moment," said Mykolas Nasevicius, head of the Analytical Control Department in the town of Utena told The Baltic Times. "The director of the power station got a 1,000 litas fine. Now we are preparing a lawsuit for damages."

Also on July 19, the Vilnius District Environmental Protection Department confirmed that oil products that spilled into the River Neris in Vilnius came from a Statoil gas station on Kareiviu Street.

The oil products flowed into the river through a rain sewage pipe. About 100 kilograms of oil products spilled into the Neris, Lithuania's second largest river.

The Statoil station will not be fined for the pollution since it had hired another firm, Fegda, which was to perform accurate cleaning works. The damage done to the environment has not yet been estimated. But it is expected to reach several tens of thousands of litas.

"As both Statoil and Fegda deny their guilt we've set up a commission to determine the identity of the pollutant," said Edmundas Zablockis, deputy director of the Vilnius District Environmental Protection Department. "Our commission should present true evidence as to who is to blame for the spill." According to him it was a rare accident.