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Finland: Left, Greens and Norilsk Nickel weigh in on Harjavalta leak

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

Officials are torn over whether the waters of the Kokemäki River can be considered safe for normal use after a large amount of nickel and other metals flowed from a Russian-owned mining facility.

After 66 metric tons of heavy metals leaked into the river earlier this month from a Norilsk Nickel plant, hundreds of dead mussels have been found on the banks of the river.

“There are still many unanswered questions, such as the suitability of the water for lathering, the edibility of the river’s fish, and so on,” the Left Alliance executive committee stated. “The city of Pori must not play with the health of Finnish citizens.”

Now the Left Alliance executive committee for the city of Pori says it wants the city to thoroughly examine the river to make sure it is suitable for swimming.

Pori officials have already deemed the water usable, but the environmental ELY center does not recommend using the Kokemäki water.

Green League concerned

Vice president Anne Bland of the Green League said on Monday that environmental officials have too few resources at their disposal to be able to monitor the actions of industry giants. The emissions in the rivers of Kokemäki and Eura speak to this lack of supervision, Bland said.

“Funding for the supervisory ELY centers doesn’t exist,” she went on. “The Ministry of Employment and the Economy should decide whether to give over control of the environment to businesses and industries, or whether resources should be upped for supervisory centers and environmental committees.”

Bland went on to say that the issues with the waters involved in the recent nickel leak or in the Talvivaara emissions disaster last year are not just individual cases, but that the whole country’s environmental surveillance systems cause problems continually.

“Decision-making has been decentralized,” she said, “resulting in a muddying of the supervisory processes. We need tools with which to relay responsibility; and Norilsk Nickel has to have a strong hand in revitalizing the river it has all but spoiled.”

Metal factory acknowledges fault

Joni Hautojärvi, chief executive officer of the Harjavalta Norilsk Nickel plant, admitted that the mussel deaths in the Kokemäki River reported on Saturday are probably due to the company’s actions.

Hautojärvi also promised that Norilsk Nickel will indeed pay compensation for any and all consequences of the heavy metal leak.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

Correction: This article originally said the volume of leaked heavy metals was 66,000 metric tons. The actual volume was 66 metric tons.