Clean-up of extensive oil pollution on a total of over 30 kilometers of beach on two of Estonia's largest islands, Hiiumaa and Vormsi, has required a take-over of the project by the Rescue Board (Päästeamet), the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and the Environmental Board (Keskonnaamet), since the spoilage was first found around a week ago.
The source of the oil, properly called mazut, a type of low-grade substance poplar during the Soviet period, is still unknown, but the authorities still require volunteers on Saturday to continue the work, on Hiiumaa.
Vaiko Vatsfeld, head of Rescue Board's western region, said said that: "The larger cleaning action has already taken place Friday on Vormsi, where about 40 volunteers took part. The more serious pollution has been removed from the island as of today. Tomorrow, May 28, volunteers are awaited, for the large cleaning action on Hiiumaa."
The board is is managing the clean-up operation, which so far has been successful, particularly due to close cooperation between municipalities, volunteers, the Environmental Board (Keskonnaamet) and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), as well as the Rescue Board itself, Vatsfeld added.
As for those wanting to volunteer for Saturday's work, Vatsfeld said that: "All participants are welcome on the 6.30 a.m. ferry, while those who have already arrived in Hiiumaa on their own should go to the rendezvous point at the Palade elementary school (Palade Põhikool).
"Members of the public are welcome there between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. to share tools, explain techniques, while a light lunch will also be provided to each participant. From there, participants will be taken to the arranged four work zones."
"We hope to take on a 16 -kilometer section this weekend. There will still be a cleaning left for the next week, where birds are currently nesting. This cleaning needs to be coordinated by the Environmental Board, which cannot involve large umbers of people, in order to safeguard the peace of the nesting wild birds," Vatsfeld continued.
Vatsfeld also noted that while all helping hands are most welcome, since there are dangerous substances involved and volunteers will be working under difficult conditions, only those in good health should volunteer, while minors and expecting mothers are strongly advised not to participate in the work, while pet dogs should also be left at home.
The cause of the mazut pollution is still not yet clear, but at the time of writing, 15km of Hiiumaa's coastline and 18km of Vormsi's have been hit, starting from last week.
The Rescue Board is also monitoring the situation to respond to situations that arise where possible, due to the changing nature of the pollution.
While, In cooperation with local governments and other authorities, pollution response work was immediately started, due to the extent of the pollution and the complexity of the cleaning work, the Rescue Board took over the handling from Monday.
Island residents can also contact the dedicated crisis phone line, 1247, for information on the situation, how to act and what to do if you find new areas of pollution.
All of this information will help to map those areas which have been cleaned and those which still require attention.
The mazut has presented in practically solidified form, and affects the east coast of Hiiumaa (second-largest Estonian island) and the coast of nearby Vormsi.
Speculation has it that the source is a shipwreck, but with dozens of wreck sites in the area along with the fact that most of these would not have carried mazut at any time, and the possibility that the pollution was carried large distances by underwater currents or the wind, make verifying this all the harder.
Editor: Andrew Whyte