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Environmental Board: Suur-Sõjamäe fumes pose no direct risk to human health

.Smoke from the fire on Tallinn's Suur-Sõjamäe tänav.
.Smoke from the fire on Tallinn's Suur-Sõjamäe tänav. Source: Mait Ots/ERR

Tarmo Tehva, head of the Harju County branch of the Estonian Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet), told ERR that according to the results of the assessment conducted by the Rescue Board (Päästeamet), the hazardous waste fire at Tallinn's Suur-Sõjamäe tänav does not pose a direct threat to human health via the air.

"The Rescue Board has been monitoring the air quality in the nearby residential areas and has found that there is currently no direct threat to people's health. At the current concentration levels, the pollutants in the air are not considered to pose a risk to human life or health," Tehva said.

"However, if there are any changes, the emergency services will certainly inform [the public]," he added.

The Rescue Board has advised people living within a three kilometer radius of the incident to keep their doors and windows closed and avoid being outdoors if possible. However, it has not warned against going to work or school.

"The air changes more quickly outdoors, for instance, when the wind blows. If you're indoors and the forced ventilation is pulling that polluted air into the room, then it stays there and being in that environment with that smoke is more harmful. If you are walking on the street, there is no sense in going towards the smoke, you should follow the wind direction," Tehva said.

Tehva said that the Environmental Agency is currently investigating what was stored in the warehouse and in what quantities, as well as the types of substances that caught fire. Monitoring of the water used to extinguish the fire, which has since reached ditches in the surrounding area is also ongoing.

"We are looking to see if the spillage has spread and how far, as well as where it needs to be cleaned up. We will take samples from the ditches and assess the water quality. The part that is contaminated will have to be cleaned up. If necessary it will need to be taken out using tanker trucks and the soil may also need to be removed," Tehva said.

ERR also asked Tehva, whether there was any risk that the fumes produced by the fire could have an impact on Lake Ülemiste, where Tallinn's drinking water is taken from.

"As far as I know, there is no wind on Lake Ülemiste, but certainly the people from Tallinna Vesi are analyzing the water during the purification process to make sure everything meets the required standards," Tehva replied.

On Tuesday afternoon, a hazardous waste management center on Tallinn's Suur-Sõjamäe tänav caught fire. The blaze then spread to adjacent buildings, with smoke from the incident visible throughout the city. The Estonian Rescue Board (Päästeamet) were still working to extinguish the fire on Wednesday.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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