Improving the water quality for local use of water resources and ecological state in the cross-border rivers Koitajoki and Tohmajoki - TohmaKoita KA10010

TohmaKoita KA10010 Kick-off meeting 17.4.2020

The projects kick-off meeting was held in April 17th 2020. Due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus COVID-19, the meeting was conducted virtual on the internet. The internet connection was quite challenging, but despite the difficulties main lines of working packages managed to be discussed. 

Partners believed, that restrictions will allow field works of project, as they are planned.  The boarder is now closed and there are some tasks, which require the boarder crossing. But as partners noted, working packages are built up so, that closed boarder is not fatal for the project and the project can start as planned. 


Project news

The problem that the project aims to solve is to find ways to improve the water quality and ecological state in the rivers Tohmajoki and Koitajoki and in Ladoga.
Both Tohmajoki and Koitajoki flow eventually to Ladoga. Due to this, substances leached from the watersheds of the two rivers can deteriorate water quality, and damage ecosystem services e.g. production of fresh water. Pollutants from Finnish and Russian basins of Tohmajoki and Koitajoki may worsen the ecological state of Ladoga.

Tohmajoki originates from Tohmajärvi in Finland and flows to Ladoga.  In Finland, contaminant sources affecting the river are agriculture, peat production and forestry.  Wastewater from Helylä is transported through the existing sewer network to the sewage treatment plant. After cleaning, it is discharged into Tohmajoki in its lower reaches. The technology is designed to remove suspended solids and light organic matters and the purification efficiency is very low. Pollutants are discharged into the river in a considerable amount, exceeding the river's self-purge abilities. Pollution of the river in the lower reaches is dangerous both for the residents of Helylä and Sortavala. This part of Tohmajoki is recognized as sanitary protection zone because the drinking water intake, used by Sortavala, is located in a bay of Ladoga in the immediate vicinity from the mouth of Tohmajoki. In order to reduce the anthropogenic pressure on the water, and to provide conditions for the restoration of the flora and fauna, as well as to minimize  risks of contaminated water entering drinking water intake, it’s necessary to eliminate the source of pollution in the lower reaches of Tohmajoki by closing the old sewage treatment plant and by redirecting the sewage water to the modern municipal sewerage facilities located in Sortavala. The purified water is discharged into Vorsunsalmi Bay 5 km from the water intake.

Koitajoki begins from Alinen Aittojärvi, which is one of the border lakes between Finland and Russia. It flows to south in North Karelia, entering the Republic of Karelia before returning to Finland. In the Finnish side of Koitajoki, water basin is largely influenced by e.g. peat industry and forestry. In contrast, the Russian side of Koitajoki is in its natural state with minimal impact of human activities. The project supports also the river restoration project LIFE FRESHABIT KOITAJOKI IP that aims to reduce run-offs originating from land-use in the watershed of Koitajoki and conserve threatened and financially valuable fish populations endemic to the river. In Finland the Koitajoki area has great potential for tourism enterprises; e.g. Koivusuo national park is located in Finnish Koitajoki area. In Karelia, the proposed Koitajoki-Tolvajärvi national park has abundant fish resources and untouched nature, ideal for tourism enterprises to develop business. The nature of Koitajoki area is well worth protection because of its value in promotion of health and wellbeing of the locals and the tourists. The previous studies in the watershed of Koitajoki have concluded that there are significant differences in measured metal levels (Al, Fe, Cd, Cu, Pb, Ni) in the aquatic moss between Finland and Russia. This hints that heavy land-use in Finland has deteriorated water quality in Koitajoki. Leaching from the soil may worsen ecosystem services available to the local enterprises and inhabitants in the whole area of Koitajoki.  In addition, leaching may cause financial and health risks to locals via food chains.

The Water Codex of the Russian Federation is large and complex entity, and as a document it is not widely well-known in the Finnish organisations. The situation is likely similar among the Russian side, that may not know the contents of the Finnish water law and the Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC). For managing cross-border cooperation programs like CBC Karelia, having both water and environmental law dimensions, there is also an immanent need to compare Finnish law with Russian Water Codex and other Russian environmental law. Operating in the border watersheds, the baseline is that national law has prior validity till the state border. In cooperative cross-border projects, it is particularly important to evaluate the influences of those projects by both nations’ laws. Some part of those projects may need permissions basing to Finnish or Russian law, or both. In those situations the legislative knowledge of both nations law is needed.One of projects targets is to create best-practice guidelines for future collaboration by studying and comparing the most important water law norms in Russian Federation and Finland. Special attention should focus on permission questions and those kinds of legislative procedures that are the most significant considering cross-border cooperation in environmental projects.

The main outputs of the project will be

1. Water and fish analyses are performed and monitoring scheme of the physical & chemical state of the cross- border rivers is developed.

2. Technical proposals and plans for reducing the load from Helylä to Ladoga are given.

3. Knowledge is exchanged and results disseminated to stakeholders and lay public.  


Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Finland, Joensuu, Lead Partner

Finnish Environment Institute is a research and expert institute under the ministry of the environment and the ministry of agriculture and forestry. It has substance divisions for inland waters, marine waters, natural environment, sustainable use of natural resources and environment policy. 

ANO Energy Efficiency Centre, Russia, Petrozavodsk, Partner

 Autonomous no-profit organisation Energy Efficiency Centre (ANO EEC) is an NGO which has been established in August, 1999. The main goals of ANO EEC work are the development and implementation of international projects based on the attraction of funds, grants and investment to the Republic of Karelia. The organisation is recognised as one of the most active non-governmental organisations working in Karelia as a manager or partner in various international projects.

Limited Liability Company “Karelvodokanal”, Russia, Sortavala, Partner

Karelvodokanal as a private enterprise (LLC) started its work in 2011. The Company has about 100 employees. The main activities of the company are: intake, purification and distribution of water, waste water treatment and disposal. In addition - the provision of specialized transport, general civil works, pipes laying and some other communal and construction types of services.

Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) - Lead Partner

Ilkka Pirhonen

Position: Project Manager



ANO Energy Efficiency Centre - Partner

Alexei Smirnov

Position: Director



Limited Liability Company “Karelvodokanal”

Andrey Romanchik

Position: Director General