State of the Environment

Air quality

The Pechenganikel Combine emissions have a significant impact on air quality in the border region. The production processes at the facility release sulfuric and heavy metal compounds into the environment which disperse with air masses. The majority of pollutants are carried by the prevailing winds to northwards in winter, but in summer winds take pollutants to other directions.

Sulfur dioxide concentrations in the air

As far as sulfur dioxide emissions are concerned, the situation has slightly improved compared to peak emission years. However, for instance the sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentrations in Nikel are still too high and exceed the threshold values and critical level specified for sensitive species. The monitoring stations of the town are located approximately one kilometer from the smelting plant. Exposure to emissions is greatest when the wind blows from the northeast. In 2013, the average concentration of sulfur dioxide in Nikel was 50 µg/m³.

Yearly sulfur dioxide concentrations in Svanvik

The Svanvik station located on the Norwegian border is normally exposed to emissions for relatively brief periods as the prevailing winds take emissions to the opposite direction. Consequently, significantly lower average concentrations are measured at Svanvik. The winds mainly bring emissions to Svanvik in the summertime. During the 1970s and 1980s the annual mean concentrations of airborne sulfur dioxide often exceeded the threshold value set for conservation of ecosystems. Concentrations are currently falling, and threshold values for annual mean concentrations have not been exceeded since 1989. According to the monitoring period of years 2013-2014 (April-March), average value of sulfur dioxide was 8.7 µg/m³ in summer and 7.3 µg/m³ in winter.

Of the Norwegian air monitoring stations the station in Karpdalen is the one most exposed to emissions as it lies in the prevailing wind direction from pollution sources even if it is farther away than Svanvik. In Karpdalen the highest concentrations are measured in winter. The average summer concentration of 2013–2014 was 11.0 μg/m3 and in winter 18.3 μg/m³. The highest sulfur dioxide concentrations of the last few years were measured in the winter of 2010–2011, when the average was 39.1 µg/m³.

The attached figure shows the annual sulfur dioxide concentrations measured at Svanvik. The threshold value for the conservation of ecosystems is shown in red. The critical value is the average concentration of 20 µg/m³ during one calendar year.

Nickel, copper and arsenic deposition in Svanvik in summer and winter season.

In Nikel there’s an air quality monitoring station of Russian Murmansk Administration for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (MUGMS). Their methods are consistent with NILU’s methods, which means that Norwegian and Russian results are comparable. Information about air quality in Nikel and Zapolyarny have been published on the website of the Environmental Monitoring Administration for the Murmansk region (MUGMS).

In Finnish Lapland, air quality is usually below the critical limit for the wellbeing of forest vegetation. Sulfur dioxide concentrations reach short-term peak values when winds blow from the east. However, this only occurs a few times a year. The annual average concentration is 10 – 15 times lower than the threshold value of 20 µg/m³ set for the wellbeing of ecosystems.

Heavy metal deposition

The Pechenganikel combine also disperses heavy metals into the environment. Heavy metal deposition (nickel, copper and arsenic) is measured from rainwater. The worst situation is within a radius of approximately ten kilometers around the combine’s production facility. Deposition falls quickly as distance from the emission source increases.

Based on results from Svanvik’s rainwater, heavy metal deposition has increased in 2004 and onwards when compared to 1990s. Heavy metal concentrations in rainwater in the summer are much higher than in the winter. This can be explained by weather conditions as the wind comes more often from the direction of the smelter in the summer. As the figure below shows, the threshold values for heavy metals in the Finnish area (Kevo and Pallas/Matorova) are not exceeded.

More about air quality:

The near real-time concentrations of sulfur dioxide at different monitoring stations can be found online at the (NILU) and (FMI) websites. Concentrations are measured at Svanvik, in Karpdalen and in Raja-Jooseppi, the station of Sevettijärvi is closed down.

The website for the Environmental Monitoring Administration for the Murmansk region has information about air quality in Nikel and Zapolyarny.

More information about border area air quality and changes in quality can be found from the publication: State of the Environment in the Norwegian, Finnish and Russian Border Area. A comparison of the Norwegian and Russian air quality monitoring methods and results can be found from the publication Russian-Norwegian ambient air monitoring in the border areas.

The newest information about air quality in Pasvik monitoring area in Norway can be found in the publication: Grenseområdene Norge-Russland. Luft- og nedbørkvalitet, april 2013 – mars 2014 (summary in Russian and English).

More about air quality in Finland from the website of Ilmatieteen laitos, air quality in Norway from the website of Norsk institutt for luftforskning and air quality in Russia from the website Мурманское Управление По Гидрометеорологии И Мониторингу Окружающей Среды.

Images: Lapin ELY