In relation to the construction and operation of the natural gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, Nord Stream conducts ambitious environmental and socio-economic monitoring in each country through whose waters the pipeline passes. Furthermore, for the purpose of providing a transparent overview, Nord Stream has taken the initiative to provide a compilation of the national monitoring results. The overall report, which is published today, contains results from 1,000 survey locations along the entire pipeline route.
The main conclusion of the environmental monitoring conducted in 2010 is that the construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline has been found to exert no significant impact on the environment. The calculations and models in Nord Stream's environmental impact assessments (EIAs) have thus proven accurate, and it is estimated that the environmental impact so far has been in line with the EIAs or smaller than anticipated.
The Nord Stream monitoring programme is nationally based and aligned to the legislation in each country. However, due to the geographical proximity, transboundary impacts from Finland to Estonia and from Russia to Finland are monitored in the Gulf of Finland. The report which is published today will be distributed to all nine Baltic Sea countries (Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia).
Nord Stream's monitoring programme includes studies in sixteen different subject areas, such as impacts of the construction of the natural gas pipeline on water quality, near seabed currents, birds, fish, as well as seabed recovery. Socio-economic factors are also included in the monitoring, such as possible impacts on cultural heritage and commercial fisheries.
More than 20 specialist companies and research institutions have been contracted by Nord Stream to conduct the surveys. These include: Luode Consulting OY (Finland), SYKE Marine Research Centre (Finland), Marin Matteknik AB (Sweden), DHI Water Environment Health (Denmark), Marine Monitoring AB (Sweden), AquaVision (Netherlands), Freie Universitat Berlin (Germany) and Ecosafety (Russia).
The data are analysed in internationally recognised laboratories, such as ALS Scandinavia and Verifin in Finland. The results are reported to the national environmental authorities in each country through whose waters the pipeline passes. Nord Stream plans to invest 40 million euros in its environmental and social monitoring programme until 2016. In every year an overall annual report will be compiled. Below is a synopsis of the findings in each country so far.
* The monitoring observations establish that the environmental impact is local in character and limited in duration.
* Despite intense construction works in Portovaya Bay in 2010, the quality of water has not been significantly affected.
* Concentrations of suspended solids turned out to be lower than the values indicated in the design documentation approved by official Russian expert review boards.
* The impacts of munitions clearance, rock placement and pipe laying on water quality were minor or negligible in scale, local in extent and restricted to short-term resuspension of seabed sediments. The spreading of harmful substances due to the construction works was minimal and impacts on flora and fauna were negligible.
* No measurable transboundary impacts from the construction works in the Finnish waters on the Estonian EEZ or from the construction works in the Russian waters on the Finnish EEZ were observed.
* Monitoring results confirm that the environmental impact assessments based on modeling are conservative.
* Monitoring showed that munitions clearance or pipe laying did not cause any impacts on wrecks of high cultural value, cables or barrels.
* Monitoring activities regarding water quality, hydrography, fish, benthos and fisheries carried out in Sweden during 2010 have been focused on collecting baseline data for measuring impacts from construction and operation activities in vicinity of the two Natura 2000 areas Hoburgs Bank and Norra Midsjabanken.
* Results from 2011 (reported to Swedish authorities in June 2011, see here) show positive results from a number of measurements, e.g. no impact on seabed currents and inflow of saltwater to the Baltic Sea as well as no negative effect on the prevalence of contaminants in common mussels. These results will be included in the next annual report (2011).
* The measurements of turbidity close to the two Natura 2000 areas Hoburgs Bank and Norra Midsj?banken show lower levels than estimated in the environmental study. The threshold value, 15 mg/l, established by the Swedish government in the permit has never been even close to being exceeded. In fact, average turbidity was below 2 mg/l during Nord Stream's trenching activities. These results will be included in the next annual report (2011).
* Wreck monitoring before and after installation of the first pipeline showed that no damage or disturbance had occurred to cultural heritage sites during construction activities of the first pipeline.
* The results from the chemical munitions monitoring showed that no damage occurred to the five chemical munitions objects during construction of the first pipeline.
* Monitoring activities regarding seabed sediment, hydrography, fish and benthos carried out in Denmark during 2010 have been focused on collecting baseline data for measuring impacts from construction and operation activities.
* Monitoring of water quality showed that turbidity values which resulted from seabed intervention works were in line with the predictions of the Nord Stream EIA modeling approach. The results of the extensive background turbidity measurements indicate that no measurable impacts on the pelagic environment occurred.
* Results of marine mammal monitoring indicated that underwater noise emissions from Nord Stream construction activities did not cause detectable effects on grey seals numbers in the Bay of Greifswald or harbour porpoises presence in the Pomeranian Bight.
* Aerial seabird surveys showed that the construction activities by the Nord Stream ships turned out to be an additional source of disturbance, but its influence could not be separated from the disturbance effects caused by the existing commercial shipping traffic. Seal monitoring activities revealed that measurable disturbance effects did not occur during offshore construction works between May and December 2010.