Project name: Evaluation and promotion of rural wastewater treatment for reduction of nutrient loads to the Baltic Sea
Goal of the project: In the Baltic Sea Region the percentage of population connected to the sewer system is ranging between 64 and 95%. There are huge disproportions between the south-eastern and north-western parts of the BSR. The project addresses the issue of continuing eutrophication – the biggest threat to the Baltic Sea ecosystem. It concentrates on nutrient emissions from rural and peri-urban wastewater in the drainage basin of the Baltic Sea, especially from the most contributing countries like Poland (discharging 24% of all waterborne N and 36% of all waterborne P loads to the Baltic Sea, HELCOM 2006). The implementation of innovative, reliable and cost-efficient small-scale wastewater treatment technologies has the potential to reduce nutrients emissions and decrease the in-stream nutrient concentrations in the basin of the Baltic Sea. National nutrient reduction targets (legislation requirements) for small-scale wastewater treatment differ between BSR countries, as do the level of involvement from authorities, house-owners, technology producers and service providers. Hence, there is a lot to learn from cross-border cooperation in this field. Moreover, many households have difficulties meeting the demands due to a high price of the technologies, few choices and because the users are simply not aware of what kind of system that is suitable for their specific conditions.
One of the main objectives of this project is to critically evaluate the operation reliability and performance of small-scale wastewater treatment plants in different locations and situations. It will also contribute to promotion of technologies suitable for rural and peri-urban areas. This is particularly important for the Nutri Priority Area (PA) of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. This PA focuses on improving wastewater treatment, managing nutrients more efficiently, facilitating cross-sectorial policy oriented dialogues, investigating cost-efficient nutrient reduction mechanisms, cooperating with non-EU Member States, and improving nutrient load data. According to the Nutri PA, there is a need for further actions to decrease the nutrient load in order to restore the Baltic Sea ecosystem. This project contributes to that need, and will establish a firm communication and exchange of ideas with similar activities that are on-going in a few parts of the Baltic Sea Region (i.e. in Sweden and recently started in Russia via the BASE project).
The project contributes to the main targets of the Nutri Action Plan, which are total nutrient reduction by 2016 and improvement of the ecological status of the Baltic Sea. It also gives a strong motive for improving cooperation across the entire macro region, and links closely to flagship actions on “improving waste water treatment”, which promotes cost efficient nutrient removal. The project focuses both on research regarding the most efficient technologies and the problem of regional differences in the demand for and awareness of cost-efficient nutrient load-reducing possibilities in rural areas. Through the project, experiences and best practices will be shared and promoted within the partner countries, which reinforces the cross-border cooperation in the BSR. This will have the added value of strengthening social and territorial cohesion between most of the countries in the region, which is in line with Horizontal Actions of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, e.g. HA Involve, HA Neighbours, and HA Promo.
The main project outcomes correspond to one of the priorities of the Europe 2020 Strategy: sustainable growth with the flagship initiative „A resource-efficient Europe”. The expected results will spur the market for cost-efficient techniques for small-scale wastewater treatment, improve possibilities for nutrient recycling, and contribute to a reduction of the most severe threat to the Baltic Sea – the excessive nutrient input. The business platform that will be created may also facilitate the process of turning innovative ideas into final products and services. Together with other dissemination operations in the project (project website and an online toolbox) this can boost the full use of the assembled information, and ensure diffusion of the technologies across the BSR partner countries. Involvement of all, or most, of the Baltic Sea Region countries will ensure an efficient knowledge transfer and promote innovation in the Union member countries of the region.