A heavy fuel oil spill discovered on Tallinn's Stroomi beach last summer is still yet to be fully cleaned up. At the time, with the source and extent of the spill unknown, the Estonian Health Board (Terviseamet) issued a warning against people going into the water in the area.
Geologists have now completed the first tests on the spill, with initial results suggesting that it will probably be safe for swimmers to use the beach again this summer. North Tallinn City District Elder Manuela Pihlap said, that overall, situation was better than had originally been thought.
According to the geologists who examined the spill, the contaminated area is reasonably small, totaling only a few dozen square meters in size.
"The result was a contained area of contamination, perhaps a bit smaller than we had initially expected. There was quite a lot of contamination in one spot, but that spot in itself was small. The extent of the pollution there, the thickness of the layer, was about half a meter below the seabed," explained geologist Kristjan-Henn Riet.
The investigation revealed that the pollution had been on the seabed waiting to be discovered for decades.
"It probably dates back to the time when some kind of sewage pipe used to run along Puhangu tänav. It has long since been decommissioned but the sewer pipe was probably contaminated with oil products from a nearby heating plant," said Riet.
The North Tallinn district has been allocated €700,000 to investigate the issue and remove the pollution. However, the removal has not yet been completed.
"We have identified the site of the pollution and with these funds, we have drawn up a decontamination plan. The biggest cost will still be for the clean-up. How much it will come to, we don't know at the moment," said Pihlap.
A second spill was also discovered on the shore of Stroomi beach last summer, though it was cleaned up within a few days.
"When we dug it up, we found that it was the residue from the construction of in Stroomi during the Soviet era. (It was) bitumen (a thick, black crude oil – ed.), which was used on roofs at the time. The Soviet culture - some bitumen was left over, so somebody just buried it in the sand. Then decades later, due to a combination of the temperatures and weather conditions, it started to seep out and that's when we noticed it," said Rainer Vakra, head of the Estonian Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet).
An international tender launched to identify a suitable company to clean up the spill is due to close in mid-February. It will then become clear whether or not Stroomi beach will be cleaned up in time for the summer.
Editor: Michael Cole