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Nord Stream: Poisonous Brew for the Baltic Sea

nordstream012508.jpgWe have written many times in the past about the challenge to European energy security posed by Gazprom’s Nord Stream pipeline project, and our correspondent Grigory Pasko has actually traveled along the entire route of the pipeline for an extensive online series of articles and a future documentary film. In addition to the messy politics of the affair and the disgraceful hiring of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, there are also considerable security and ecological risks posed by the project. According to a rather shocking new article published in the German paper TAZ on Jan. 18, the Nord Stream joint venture is planning on flushing this Baltic pipeline with many tons of toxic cleaning fluid, which will later be dumped in the sea. What follows is an exclusive translation of the article – the original German version can be read here.

Rinse for the Gazprom Pipeline Poisonous Brew for the Baltic Sea The Gazprom pipeline is to be rinsed with billions of litres of a poisonous alkaline solution, which will be directed into the sea. This is lethal for fish. By Reinhard Wolff, TAZ STOCKHOLM – Parts of the Baltic will have to reckon with a massive toxic shock in connection with the planned pipeline between Russia and Germany. The pipeline is to be 1,200 km long. And the Nord Stream consortium, which is led by Gazprom, is planning to flush it with a poisonous “cleaning fluid” before going online, in order to clean and furbish the pipeline’s interior surfaces.

Afterward, 2.4 billion litres of this fluid to protect against bacteria and micro-organisms are to end up dumped in the Baltic. This corresponds to a load of ten super-tankers with 240,000 tons each. These plans became known on Thursday. According to information from the Swedish technical magazine Ny Teknik, these plans are in the construction application filed by the consortium on December 21 of last year. Consortium members include the German companies BASF and Eon.Glutaraldehyde is to be used as the “rinsing agent.” This chemical compound is highly toxic and dangerous for the environment. It can cause serious irritation to the eyes and lungs. In a diluted and dissolved form, it is used to tan leather or disinfect medical instruments.“Even the calculations that the construction consortium itself made show there’s a risk that living organisms will be harmed,” explains Anneli Rydström, eco-toxicologist with the Swedish state chemical agency. She is especially concerned about the algae: “Algae form the basis of the marine eco-system. For them, however, the rinse is highly toxic.” In addition, the chemical – even in small amounts – is poisonous to crustaceans and fish. Rydström says, “In comparable cases, we have rejected applications to use this agent.” Anybody who uses this agent in industry must clean the waste water in a special way before it may be directed into the sea. Since the use of this chemical is to take place within the Swedish economic zone of the Baltic Sea, it is now up to the government in Stockholm to permit or reject this. The toxic rinsing procedure, which takes place under high pressure, is to remove bacteria and micro-organisms that may have settled on the interior of the pipes.“When the gas flows, the walls of the pipes have to be completely smooth,” says Jørn Bo Larsen, environmental consultant for a consulting firm hired by Nord Stream, to justify this process. A part of the glutaraldehyde is “consumed” when it comes into contact with micro-organisms. However, the rinse water can “negatively” influence organisms in a marine area of several square kilometres, if it is released. In the long term, the construction consortium maintains, the agent will be broken down, however, and diluted into harmless concentrations.The largest amount of poisonous rinsing water is to be let into the sea halfway through the pipeline close to the Swedish island of Gotland. The construction of a service platform is also planned there.The rinsing of pipelines is nothing new. But the planned Baltic Sea pipeline is one of the longest underwater pipelines ever planned. And in the long term, a second pipeline is to be laid next to the first one. There is no experience to show how the poisonous rinsing water from such a long pipeline in the Baltic Sea can affect this maritime environment. The Baltic Sea is considered a particularly delicate inland sea.