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Friday, November 16, 2007

European Nations adopt plan to clean up Baltic Sea

Ministers from eight countries yesterday adopted an action plan to restore the Baltic Sea to ecological health by 2021.

"After 18 months of drafting and negotiating, the coastal countries have reached a broad consensus on concrete ... measures that are needed to achieve our common goal of a healthy marine environment," said Mieczyslaw Ostojski, chairman of the Helsinki Commission.

The commission consists of the Europoean Union and the nine Baltic sea countries -- Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden.

Only Denmark has not signed off on the plan, although it is expected to do so after the formation of a new cabinet.

The main threats to the health of the heavily polluted sea are agricultural runoff and untreated sewage, which cause algae blooms, oxygen depletion, murky water and lifeless sea bottoms, according to the commission.

Plans to clean it up include more effective treatment of municipal waste waters, use of phosphorus-free detergents and best practices in agriculture. The commission hopes to reduce the annual level of phosphorus injections into the Baltic Sea from 36,000 metric tons to 21,000 metric tons and lower nitrogen from 737,000 metric tons to 600,000 metric tons.

Environmental groups have criticized the plan as a statement of intention rather than a binding document.