Estonia's first: LIFE IP CleanEST installed floating islands to clean Soolikaoja creek in Rakvere

Foto: Alfa-Omega Communications
11.06.2021 / Henry Linnard, communications manager

Estonia's first floating islands, the aim of which is to clean water bodies, were installed on the three ponds of Soolikaoja creek in the city of Rakvere.

Improving the aquatic environment of Soolikaoja is part of the ten-year project LIFE IP CleanEST.

Plants were planted on 11 floating islands, which clean the water through the roots from the pollutants.

Riin Sikka, an environmental specialist in the city of Rakvere, said that the release of pollutants into the water is a problem typical to the region. "Groundwater is overloaded with nitrates. There are also Soviet-era influences from oil products that seep into the water from the soil," Sikka said.

Vallo Kõrgmaa, the head of the research group working on Soolikaoja, explained that the plant’s own roots are the ones that will be doing most of the work when it comes to cleaning the water. "As much as they pick up these nutrients, but what also helps, is the biofilm, which is a layer of bacteria growing on the roots of the plant, and this layer of bacteria is what does the most of the work," said Kõrgmaa.

Floating islands were built from 200 mm PEM pipes which were connected to create octagonal and rectangular frames, the bottom of which is made of metal mesh. Coconut mat and rock wool were installed on the net as the soil for the plants. The plants were planted in a way so that the roots reach the water.

Three floating islands were installed in the pond of the church garden park, five in the pond of Supeluse park and another three in the pond of Allika park. A total of 11 floating islands with a total area of ​​170 square meters were installed.

"The idea of ​​using floating islands was primarily based on the fact that Soolikoja has been transformed into dam lakes in several places throughout the city, which are suitable for using such technology," said Kõrgmaa. "The second argument was that the solution is relatively inexpensive and works passively. As a bonus, the islands offer new habitats for aquatic life and nesting sites for birds," he added.

LIFE IP CleanEST is a project to improve the condition of water bodies in Ida-Viru County and Lääne-Virumaa, covering a total of 240,000 hectares of land, a total of 574 kilometers of watercourses and almost 160,000 hectares of coastal water bodies. The project lasts ten years and has a total cost of 16.7 million euros. The European Commission finances the project to the extent of 60 percent, Estonia's 40 percent co-financing is financed through the Environmental Investment Centre and the state budget.

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