The environmental load of peat production and how it is monitored

Environmental monitoring is carried out at all stages of the lifecycle of peat production – before production is started, at the preparation stage, at the production stage and after production ceases before moving on to the next form of land use. Environmental monitoring of peat production consists of four different types of monitoring, which are: usage monitoring, discharge monitoring, monitoring the effectiveness of water protection structures and impact monitoring.

The watercourse load from peat production is minor

In the context of the whole of Finland, the nutrient, phosphorus and nitrogen load from peat production is less than 1% of the total load carried to watercourses. Locally, the proportion of the load caused by peat production can vary greatly relative to the total load in the catchment area of a particular lake.

The quality of run-off water from peat production compared to natural water

The run-off water from peat production areas is on average more nutrient-rich and contains more suspended solids than water running off mires in the natural state. The humus load can also be greater, especially when a production area is at the preparation stage. However, there is a great deal of variation between mires. In the best case the concentration of phosphorus, suspended solids or humus in the run-off water from peat production, when directed through an overland flow field, is very low. There is very little researched information available on mires in the natural state. The figures in the table below are based on a very limited set of data.

Average concentrations in run-off water Natural-state mire Peat production area
Phosphorus (μg/l) 20 47
Nitrogen (μg/l)  500 1369
Suspended solids (mg/l)  2,0 4,4
Chemical oxygen demand (mg O2/l)  38 41

In future peat production will be increasingly concentrated in mires ditched for forestry use. Forest drainage has increased the load to watercourses, and the total impact of peat production is smaller compared to production being started at a mire in the natural state.

Vapo’s peat production load and targets

The diagrams below show the specific loads (per hectare of peat production area) of suspended solids, phosphorus and nitrogen from 1999 to 2011 and the targets for 2012-2015. As a whole, the load is forecast to decline slightly from previous levels owing to more effective water protection methods. The weather conditions also affect the annual load, which creates variation among years. Dry years reduce the load and rainy years increase it. The target of the enhancement measures is to reduce in particular the suspended solid load and the accompanying nutrients.

 Suspended solids, gross load kg/ha/a

Kiintoaine

Phosphorys, gross load kg/ha/a

Fosfori

Nitrogen, gross load kg/ha/a

Typpi