The state will ban the removal of excess snow from towns and cities to the countryside to avoid land contamination in the future. Snow from the city streets can contain heavy metals and oil which damage the land when it melts in the spring.
For years, snow from the streets of North Tallinn has been taken to the state-owned Paljassaare tee 45 plot. Recently, the mayor of North Tallinn Peeter Järvelaid sent a routine letter to the Land Board (maa-amet) and asked for permission to store snow there during the coming winter.
However, Tiina Vooro, the head of the state land management department at the Land Board, said that the state will no longer allow this.
Vooro said this is because it has become very difficult to sell land which has previously been used to dump snow on and buyers are hesitant as the contaminated melted snow water becomes absorbed into the soil.
"These areas, where soil pollution studies have also been carried out, have shown heavy metals and petroleum products in the ground, and not in small quantities either," said Vooro.
Over the years, snow collected from the streets of Tallinn has melted on approximately five state-owned properties. Vooro said there is now greater concern about where snow is stored each year and how harmful substances accumulate in the soil.
In 2014, the environmental agency investigated a site in Mustjõgi. The study showed the site has high levels of pollution and cleaning work needs to be carried out on the soil which is very expensive.
"That is why we have found that the constant use of state land for activities with a risk of pollution is not right. It can significantly damage state assets," Vooro said.
Järvelaid said the council have an alternative to the state-owned land. A new site is located by the sea, only 400 meters from the previous storage site and belongs to Tallinn.
"We must be ready for winter and as of today, if we can't use [Paljassaare tee] 45, we will have [to use] Paljassaare tee 42," Järvelaid said.
Eight years ago, the city council adopted the Tallinn Rainwater Strategy until 2030. The strategy broadly divides the snow into two. Fresh snow does not cause environmental pollution and could be transported either to the sea or to somewhere close to the sea.
Järvelaid is not afraid that storing snow will reduce the value of land as developers have already shown interest in the area and he thinks land prices will rise.
He also sees a possible solution to the snow storage problems at Tallinn wastewater treatment plant which could process and clean the snow and then release the water into the sea.
Editor: Helen Wright