Baltic Sea threatened by leaking mercury | WWF

Baltic Sea threatened by leaking mercury

Posted on 30 August 2006

WWF is concerned by the recent discovery of more than 3 500 barrels of catalytic waste legally dumped around 50 years ago off the coast of Sundsvall. These barrels may be part of approximately 21 000 barrels dumped in the area, which together may contain as much as 9 tons of mercury. The research results from a mapping cruise of the Swedish Geological Survey (SGU) found that some of these barrels are now corroding. This could leave the toxic contents exposed to the sensitive sea environment.

“WWF was very disappointed to learn that investigations of this situation have now ceased due to lack of funding. Any delay in taking decisive steps to minimise the risk of an environmental disaster are not only irresponsible but potentially very dangerous”, says Lasse Gustavsson, director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

“Over time, the mercury in these barrels could easily be released and thus could devastate the Baltic Sea’s sensitive marine environment”, says Ninja Reineke, Senior Programme Officer, WWF Toxics programme.

In a letter sent yesterday to Swedish Environmental Minister, Lena Sommestad, WWF urged the Swedish government to:

• Immediately launch a full-scale, fully-funded, investigation to accurately assess the scope and status of this area – i.e. exactly locate and map the position of the barrels, their condition and identify the potential threat they pose.

• Immediately identify solutions and a plan for how to effectively eliminate the threat these barrels pose - i.e. how can these barrels, and their toxic contents, be properly treated and/or removed from the marine environment.

WWF believes that all governments around the Baltic Sea should assess the amount of known hazardous substances that have been dumped in their national waters and identify a plan for proper removal and treatment. WWF also urges the Swedish government to prepare a masterplan for revealing the complete situation in Swedish waters in order to prepare a solution for the situation of dumped hazardous substances in the whole Baltic Sea.

For additional information
• Lasse Gustavsson, Director WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme,
Tel: +46 (0) 70-10 5 30 55
• Ninja Reineke, Senior Programme Officer, WWF Toxics programme
Tel: +32 2 7400926
• Marie von Zeipel, Press Officer, WWF Sweden
Tel: +46 (0) 706 29 10 77