Heavy fuel oil pollutes Tallinn beach

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Stroomi beach in Tallinn.
Stroomi beach in Tallinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Rescue Board (Päästeamet), together with the North Tallinn district and the Environmental Board (Keskonnaamet), has started clearing up old heavy fuel oil spill discovered end of June in the central portion of Stroomi beach (Stroomi rand) on the western side of the Kopli peninsula in Tallinn. The beach is closed for swimming until the slick is cleaned up.

The Northern Rescue Center (Põhja päästekeskus) stated that the pollution, which was first discovered on 25 June, is located beneath the sand, from where it has begun to seep out and upwards. The impacted area is a 300-sq m patch of shoreline and shallow water.

On June 28, the contaminated area was sealed off with the assistance of coast guards. At the same time, personnel began manually collecting the spilled oil; 42 bags of heavy oil products have been collected so far.

The excavation showed that the contamination is approximately one meter in depth.

Pollution at the Stroomi beach. Source: Northern rescue centre

"However, this is not a crisis situation, because the spill is bound to the sand and does not spread. There is no significant danger present to the marine environment and marine species," environmental board advisor Himot Maran said.

The source of the leak is unknown, but based on the depth and behavior of the spill, it is most likely an older spill of heavy fuel oil that has now reached the surface due to sand layer displacement.

For public's safety, the swimming area of Stroomi beach is closed for the duration of the excavation.

Stroomi beach is strictly off-limits for swimming until the entire shoreline is assessed and the pollution is cleaned up. If someone wishes to swim, they do so at their own risk.

The North Tallinn city district government is in charge of the cleanup and will keep the public updated on its progress. At the sane time, the environmental board conducts additional inspections until the extent of the pollution is determined and the problem is resolved.

Cleaning up pollution at Stroomi Beach. Source: Northern rescue centre

Update July 14

Pollution from heavy fuel oil in the Stroomi beach swimming area spreads outside the taped-off area.

The health authorities collected three samples from the swimming area: one immediately close to the pollution location, one a few dozens of meters away, and one near the beach facility.

Petroleum products were found in the swimming water near to the taped-off area. The other two samples, which were collected further away from the pollution site, did not reveal any oil compounds.

Pollutants are already present outside of the taped-off area and may contaminate the bathing water further. The direction and size of the spreading area can change due to current weather conditions.

The presence of petroleum products in water poses a health risk to bathers, particularly small children. The Health Council strongly discourages swimming in the Stroomi swimming area until the contamination has been eliminated.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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