Joint Norwegian-Russian report on air pollution in the border area

Both Norwegian and Russian authorities are monitoring air quality in the border area between Norway and Russia in order keep an eye on the emissions from mining and smeltery activities in Nikel and Zapolyarny on the Kola Peninsula. This marks the first time the monitoring results from Norway and Russia are presented in a joint report.

The expert group on air pollution in the border area

Consists of representatives from the Regional Authorities for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring in Murmansk (Murmansk UGMS), the Norwegian Environment Agency, and the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU).

The group wrote the report as part of the cooperation under the auspices of the Joint Norwegian-Russian Commission on Environmental Cooperation.

The report accounts for the monitoring programmes and threshold limit values for air quality in the two countries.

It also presents the monitoring results for sulphur dioxide (SO2) and heavy metals (nickel and copper) in the air for the period 2008–12.

In order to optimize the interpretation of the results, it was also important to assess whether Norwegian and Russian monitoring methods provided comparable results.

Some of the main findings of the report are as follows:

  • Both Murmansk UGMS and NILU use well-known methods for monitoring sulphur dioxide (SO2) and heavy metals in the air. For SO2, the monitoring methods and the results in the air on both sides of the border are comparable. For heavy metals, by contrast, Norway and Russia differ in their sample collection and threshold limit values.

  • The Russian monitoring data show there are higher levels of SO2 in Nikel and Zapolyarny, and the Russian threshold limit values for air quality are exceeded every year. Also on the Norwegian side of the border we experience heightened levels of SO2 when the wind blows in from the smelteries in Nikel and Zapolyarny, and the Norwegian threshold limit values for SO2 have been exceeded several times.

  • We still measure high values of SO2 in the air, both on the Norwegian side (Svanvik and Karpdalen in Sør-Varanger) and on the Russian side (Nikel and Zapolyarny), even though the emissions and levels of SO2 have been reduced during the past two decades. The levels are much higher at the Russian measurement stations since they lie closer to the emission sources. Over the past three years, the average SO2 values during the summer and winter halves of the year, respectively, have been between 5 and 16 times higher at the Russian measurement stations than at the Norwegian measurement stations.

  • In Norway, the threshold limit values for heavy metals in the air are stated in particles that are less than 10 micrometres in diameter (PM10). In Russia, the highest allowed concentration of metals in particles is stated without such size fractionation. This makes it difficult to compare both the threshold limit values and the monitoring results for heavy metals.

  • The Russian biannual values (winter, summer) for heavy metals in the air have been between 3 and 18 times higher than the Norwegian measurement results for nickel and between 1.5 and 13 times higher for copper. This might be because the Russian measurement stations lie much closer to the emission sources than the Norwegian measurement stations, and also because the Russians analyse everything at the level of suspended dust/particles, while we in Norway analyse at the level of PM10. The concentrations of nickel and copper on the Russian side did not exceed the Russian threshold limit values, and the levels in Norway were also not higher than the Norwegian threshold limit values.

  • The expert group suggests that we continue to work on how to harmonize monitoring methods and the reporting and presentation of monitoring results, in particular for heavy metals. Moreover, modelling the spread and distribution of air pollutants in the border area has been nominated as a potential topic for future cooperation.