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Locals concerned as company eager to mine peat in Turvalepa Bog

Village of Turvalepa.
Village of Turvalepa. Source: ERR

Eesti Killustik, a company involved in natural resources extraction and construction material production, wants to start mining peat in Western Estonia's Turvalepa Bog. These ambitions have many locals worried, 131 of whom recently signed a petition calling attention to their concerns.

Peat hasn't been mined in Lääne County's Turvalepa Bog since Soviet times. Now, however, Eesti Killustik wants to mine a combined 136,000 metric tons of peat from some 50 hectares of the bog over a period spanning three decades, at a rate of 5,000 metric tons a year, ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported Sunday night.

In a written comment, Eesti Killustik board member Ole Sein said that the expert assessment included with their environmental permit application did not identify a significant impact on the surrounding villages' water regime.

Nonetheless, many area residents are skeptical. 131 people signed a petition detailing a string of concerns regarding drinking water, traffic, environmental values as well as fire risks.

"Our nearest well is only a little more than 500 meters from here," said Turvalepa village resident Karl Gustav Erik Ahun. "Our community has a single plea: please conduct comprehensive environmental impact studies and a water flow survey. That is the best solution for all of our futures."

Ahun highlighted as a cautionary tale the case of Salajõe, another village some 20 kilometers to their northwest whose residents fought for years for clean well water in connection with peat mining in the nearby Niibi Bog.

A preliminary environmental impact assessment is currently being drawn up regarding Eesti Killustik's Turvalepa application, and according to Erik Kosenkranius, deputy director general at the Environmental Board, it will be another couple of months yet until it's complete.

"During this process, the Environmental Board will identify any additional expert assessments or analyses that may be required," Kosenkranius explained.

"But it may also happen that it's decided as a result of the preliminary assessment that a full-blown environmental impact assessment is needed," he added.

Many locals have doubts regarding the claim that as one-time mining in Turvalepa Bog was interrupted, then the bog cannot regenerate itself.

According to Kosenkranius, carbon will continue to be released at the old production site until either the peat layer is removed or a significant change occurs to the area's water flow.

Lääne-Nigula Municipality hasn't yet developed a position regarding the Turvalepa case, and is requesting additional time from the Environmental Board to do so.

"We're not against manufacturing and industry in general, but in order to be involved in such things, people have to get answers and concerns and dangers must be allayed," said Lääne-Nigula Municipal Mayor Janno Randmaa.

At the conclusion of mining activity, an environmental permit holder is required to remediate its used production site.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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