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Newspaper Karjalainen on Sortavala and KA6000 project

6 march 2020

Based on the Karjalainen article of Jyrki Utriainen, translation courtesy of Ilkka Pirhonen (SYKE), materials from Karjalainen and Karelvodokanal LLC

In Sortavala, infrastructure is being built to improve the quality of clean water. The project manager for the EU-Russia joint project is Ilkka Pirhonen from Joensuu, who presented the progress of the project to the Karelian.

At present, some 920 cubic meters of wastewater is still discharged from the southern side of the city into the Läpäjärvi and through it to the Ladoga lake.

A new water intake pipe will enter the Hiidenselkä recess at Ladoga. Photo: Karelvodokanal

This waste water is only subjected to coarse mechanical filtration. In other words, solid particles are separated from the water.

Previously, all wastewater in the city was transported directly to Lake Läppäjärvi. The point is now to put an end to it, and the rest of the wastewater will be forwarded to a sewage treatment plant that was renovated with EU Tacis funding in the early 2000s. The treatment plant is still one of the most modern in Northwest Russia.

Ilkka Pirhonen is interested in wastewater discharges into Lake Läppäjärvi, but right now his main focus is on the drinking water and on its quality in the Sortavala area. That is, in the water that the city dwellers get from their faucets at home.

In Sortavala, infrastructure is under construction that will improve the quality of clean water at once. In the future, lake water will be taken from a new location and treated using modern equipment and methods.

The Sortavala tap water infrastructure will be built through a joint project between Russia and the EU. It is managed by the Sortavala’s Water Company, Karelvodokanal LLC. The total cost of the project is almost EUR 4 million.

Ilkka Pirhonen is the Project Manager at the Finnish Environment Institute, which is also a partner in the project.


Problems with current tap water

Finnish tourists are familiar with the use of Sortavala tap water. It is suitable for washing and you can brush your teeth if needed. Drinking the water is not recommended.

 Tap water problems arise from the lack of good quality groundwater in the Sortavala area. Therefore, it is necessary to take water from the lake.

The current water intake is in Soikkasenlahti bay, Lake Ladoga, at the mouth of the Tohmajoki River. The water intake pipe is at the depth of about three meters, i.e. in relatively shallow water.

Slightly upstream is located the neighboring village of Helylä. There is a wastewater treatment plant built in 1976.

- The efficiency of the treatment plant is low with regard to the amount of wastewater, says Ilkka Pirhonen.

The increased number of intestinal bacteria is evident in the shallow Soikkasenlahti bay. In addition, water quality varies with the seasons and weather conditions.

- The Tohmajoki River is in good condition from Finland to Russia. Untreated wastewater is discharged from the village of Helylä in Sortavala. This is reflected in the increased levels of bacterial and ammoniacal nitrogen in water analyzes. Where the river goes down to Ladoga, the water is also browner than in the Ladoga, because Tohmajoki is naturally humus water, says limnologist Sari Mitikka from the Finnish Environment Institute.

Due to the increased bacterial content, the existing drinking water is chemically disinfected, that is, chlorinated at the old pumping station on the lake shore. Nothing else is done to the water, after being chlorinated, it is led to the water supply system of the city.

Chlorination affects the taste and smell of tap water. Compared to the World Health Organization guidelines, the chloroform concentrations in Sortavala's tap water are close to the upper limit of 300 µg/l.

 The chemical oxygen demand, iron content and chloroform content in the drinking water leaving the water plant are higher than, for example, the limits set by the EU Drinking Water Directive for water intended for human consumption, confirms Sari Mitikka.

Concentrations are unlikely to cause a health hazard to a person in basic health if drinking water is used for short periods. Significant health risks require decades of exposure to these substances.


The construction of the fresh water pumping station is on schedule. Photo: Karelvodokanal


New water intake

The ongoing construction project aims at solving the tap water quality problems in the Sortavala area.

The change will affect about 30,000 inhabitants of the area and naturally tourists, most of whom are Finns.

The tap water intake pipe will be moved to Hiidenselkä further away from the shore and much deeper than the existing pipe. In the new location, the water quality is good and stays constant throughout the year.

- Based on the measurements, the water is almost drinkable as such, says Ilkka Pirhonen.


The current pumping station and water intake are located in Soikkasenlahti. Photo: Karelvodokanal

A new pumping station has already been built on Hiidenselkä shore, and water will be piped to the outskirts of Sortavala, where the old pumping station will be renovated for this purpose.

In addition to the pumping station Russian self-financed purification and filtration plant will also be built designed to meet Western standards. In practice, the entire building will be completely renovated.

This also eliminates the chlorination of water. The change in the quality of tap water will therefore be dramatic.

The work on the new pumping station at Hiidenselkä and the purification station on the outskirts of the city is expected to be completed this year, and the entire project should be finished by the end of next year.


Great importance for locals and tourists

According to the Karelvodokanal, the construction project has progressed even ahead of schedule.

Thus, clean, potable drinking water from the faucets of the Sortavala citizens should start running by 2021 at the latest.

- The project is of great importance to the residents of Sortavala and visitors here, comments Andrei Romantshik, Director General of Karelvodokanal.

The project is unique in the Russian Karelia.

- There are no projects of this scale in Karelia. There would definitely be a need. Everyone in Karelia has the right to have access to clean drinking water, says Romantshik.

Continuation of the current project is already planned. The aim is to find out the discharge points of the Tohmajoki and Koitajoki rivers - such as the Helylä wastewater station - and to propose measures for these problem sites. One of the aims of the project is to improve the condition of both Ladoga and the Baltic Sea and to reduce the load on them. 


Comment: Couple reasons why we should be involved

Text: Jyrki Utriainen


In many respects, in Finland environmental issues are taken care of, although there is always room for improvement. It is clear without saying, that from the kitchen tap comes potable water. Unlike many countries. As also behind the border in Russian Karelia.

Just a little bit more than a hundred kilometers as the crow flies southeast of Joensuu, a revolutionary project is underway in the Sortavala area to improve people's quality of life: non-potable water will become potable next year.

This construction project is possible because it is funded by the Karelia CBC program. The program, in turn, is funded by Russia, Finland and the European Union.

Finns have the know-how of fresh water that can be taken to the neighborhood.

The project also aims to divert the rest of the city's wastewater to the treatment plant. Now they flow through Lake Läppäjärvi to Ladoga, and eventually ends up in the Gulf of Finland.

Although these emissions from the north of Ladoga are small, if you compare them with the load from the St. Petersburg region. The less the load is along the way, the better it will eventually be for the Baltic Sea as well.

It is worth participating in this.


What is it all about?

- Improvement of the quality of drinking water in the Sortavala economic area through a joint Russian-EU construction project

- The entire tap water infrastructure is being in practice rebuilt.

- The last wastewater in the city center is also directed to a wastewater treatment plant

- The official name of the project is SortWater, Water Supply and Water Treatment Facility Improvement in Sortavala

- The project is led by the Sortavala water company Karelvodokanal and its Finnish partner is the Finnish Environment Institute

- The cost of the project is EUR 4 million, of which a significant part comes from Russia

- The project is funded by Russia, the EU and Finland through the Karelia CBC program

- Finnish companies can also participate in tenders for a construction project

Ilkka Pirhonen's interview

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