More funds necessary to clean up rivers of oil shale industry contamination

Purtse River cleanup.
Purtse River cleanup. Source: Climate ministry

In Ida-Viru County, the first steps have been taken to clean the rivers of oil shale industry waste. Locals were hopeful that in the future the state will find the funds to completely clean up the rivers.

Nearly €27 million was spent to clean 18 kilometers of riverbed in the Purtse River basin of oil shale industrial wastes.

Another seven kilometers of the Purtse River were redirected to a new riverbed, but the pollution cleaning in the old riverbed is now postponed until the next round of funding.

"There was more contamination than the surveys suggested and it was not in any of the locations specified under the original plan. We were able to adjust the volumes and fix things on the go, but we also had to revise the design and build more of a new riverbed than initially planned. Everything turned out well and the river now flows in a clean basin," Raimo Jaaksoo, project manager at the Ministry of Climate, explained.

Purtse River cleanup. Source: Ministry of Climate

"It was difficult since we initially thought there was one to two meters of polluted mud, but it turned out to be about five or six meters deep," Tarvo Klaasimägi, the project manager, said.

At the closing event of the Purtse and Erra rivers partial cleanup initiative, the project's 2018 initiators and local residents talked about the enormous task that remains to be done in removing oil shale industry byproducts from the rivers and lakes of Ida-Viru County.

Purtse River cleanup. Source: Climate Ministry

"I am hopeful after the discussion that they see the need to continue the cleanup. But they are being cautious about what they say - there should be more community pressure. Whoever makes the most noise will be dealt with," Laila Meister, a local resident, said.

The original plan for the project was to send the gutted pollution from the rivers to the Netherlands for incineration. During the works, plans changed and the stinking sludge was dumped in Kohtla-Järve at the VKG oil shale oil production residue landfill.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Kristina Kersa

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