The projects implemented under the measure produced information on the presence of pharmaceuticals in coastal waters and marine areas. In addition, wastewater pretreatment methods and environmental permit procedures for production plants were assessed and pharmaceutical residues found in municipal sewage sludge and the risks they cause in soil were identified. However, potential and effective measures to reduce pharmaceutical emissions have already been identified. As studies have shown that pharmaceuticals are found in the Baltic Sea, the Ministry of the Environment, the Finnish Water Utilities Association (FIWA) and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities concluded a voluntary green deal agreement in October 2021 according to which the water utilities committed to the agreement will develop their operations to remove pharmaceuticals. However, more detailed studies are still needed to improve the knowledge base, and thus the measure will continue in the programme period 2022–2027.
Emissions of pharmaceuticals from municipal wastewater treatment plants were studied in 2013. (‘Hazardous substances at wastewater treatment plants’ – the final report of the project, Finnish Water Utilities Association VVY). The wastewater treatments plans were estimated to be the main source of pharmaceuticals in the environment. Furthermore, manure was found to be a potential source for antibiotics in surface water. The wastewater treatment plants were identified as the most probable significant source of hormones. The Ministry of the Environment commissioned a study on those wastewater treatment plants which were not included in the above-mentioned study. Even though there is constantly more information available about emission sources of pharmaceuticals and hormones, data of the presence of pharmaceuticals in the marine area is insufficient.
The aim of the measure is to contribute to the knowledge base of the presence of pharmaceuticals and hormones in the marine area. It is a prerequisite for targeting measures to reduce emissions.
The measure is started by surveys of presence of pharmaceuticals and hormones in the marine areas close to coastal water utilities, river basins and coastal waters. Presence of the substances in the above-mentioned surface waters is studied both on outfalls of treated wastewater and cleaner background spots. The survey includes information of how large a share of emissions in surface waters and wastewater treatment plants’ drains are caused by the production and consumption of pharmaceuticals and which pre-treatment methods are in use in the production plants of pharmaceuticals and hormones. The consequences of sludge from the wastewater treatment plants, of treatment of animals with pharmaceuticals and of livestock manure are also studied as a transport route for pharmaceuticals to enter the soil and further along the surface water.
In the next phase, the potential and effective methods to reduce emissions will be recognized and suggested.
Ministry of the Environment