The present and future environmental situation in Northeast Estonia

The mining and energy industry in Northeast Estonia have polluted and continue to pollute the environment. The pollution load has decreased, as a result of the decrease of production, introduction of new technologies and the construction and repair of purification plants.

The main emissions of the oil shale power plants and the Kunda cement factory are lime dust, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Except for the installation of purification filters, technologies, based on the reaction of CaO with SO2, have been introduced. As the emissions have high CaO content, they do not cause acid rain.

The fly ash of the oil shale power plants is airborne alkaline pollution that has caused vast changes in the plant cover of the northern part of Alutaguse. Plants characteristic of an acid environment, including peat mosses, the indicator plants of bogs, have vanished. The excess of lime has led to the introduction of several new calcicolous species. It has increased the number of species (about 600 species of vascular plants), but has driven the plant communities to an unstable state. The alkaline pollution is accompanied by an airborne deposition of lead, copper, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals, which falls on the soil and plants.

Organic waste leaking from black semi-coke heaps includes oil, phenols, ketones and other toxic liquids. This toxic waste has been carried to the Gulf of Finland by the Purtse and Kohtla Rivers. Pollution of the rivers may dramatically increase as a result of accidents, like the fire in the Estonia mine in 1988.

The deep ground water layers of the Cambrian–Vendian aquifer system were endangered by growing consumption during the 1970s and 1980s. With the decrease in industrial production and water consumption during the past decade, the water table has risen, reducing the danger of intrusion of marine water.

Northeast Estonia has a legacy of environmental damage and the potential for further damage remains. To create a healthier environment in this region, the introduction of new technology is required.

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