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Oysters on the Watch. Shellfish and Algae Help Monitor Novorossiysk Bay Cleanliness

Date of publication: 24 August 2021

A hydrobiont test farm that has appeared at the seaport of Novorossiysk will allow extra monitoring of the environmental situation in Tsemes Bay.

Hydrobionts are various living organisms (bacteria, algae, crayfish, shellfish, fish, etc), otherwise known as test objects. They are used to assess the toxicity of industrial wastewater and the degree of pollution in natural water bodies. Biotesting was first introduced at the turn of the last century, but this technology saw explosive growth in the 1960s. In recent decades, Russia and other leading nations have developed a large number of biological methods to monitor aquatic pollution. But their essence is the same: studying the response of living organisms to pollutants.

Transneft has already launched three hydrobiont test farms operating at Russian seaports. The first one appeared in Kozmino Port (Primorye Territory), where the Sea urchin, Far East trepang and algae are used as test objects. In 2019, a similar one arose in the port of Primorsk, Leningrad Region, with Baltic whitefish, rainbow trout and shellfish stocked in that test farm.

The practice showed the effectiveness of biological control methods, so it was decided to use hydrobionts in the port of Novorossiysk as well. Divers attached two hydro-biotechnical structures to the abutment of Berth No. 1 and then 300 giant bivalve oysters in special cages (nurseries) were placed at the depth of six to nine metres. They also installed mussel collecting headers and settled 900 species on the structures. A special wire substrate was strained to grow green and brown algae. Oysters and mussels accumulate water pollutants in their tissues, being sensitive bio-indicators. Analysis of hydrobionts will allow a high degree of accuracy in assessing the effectiveness of environmental measures taken by Chernomortransneft, including the treatment of wastewater at Sheskharis TC.

According to Galina Chezganova, Head of the Environmental Safety and Rational Nature Management Section at Chernomortransneft, biotesting is a visible way of monitoring the environment, which helps common people understand the real environmental situation in the bay. Only experts can come to grips with the maximum allowable concentrations of pollutants. For non-specialists another thing is much clearer, though: if clams are doing well and actively breeding, it means there is nothing wrong with ecology in their habitat.

The hydrobiont test farm allows the assessment of water purity not only near the berth where tankers are loaded with petroleum products. There are two deepwater outlets for treated domestic and industrial rainwater runoff, the current carrying it in the direction of the hydro-biotechnical structures.

"Of course, we carry out quantitative chemical testing all the time, the bio method being supplementary," explains Ms. Chezganova. "The plan calls for the test farm to operate 10 years. Every six months, aquatic species will be tested for petroleum products and other pollutants that can potentially be found in their tissues. In addition, ichthyologists will assess the condition of oysters and mussels, the way they grow and breed. Inspections will be carried out in spring and autumn. The first one has been scheduled for September-October 2021.

On a related note

On a quarterly basis, specialists from the environmental analysis laboratory of Sheskharis TC perform routine environmental and analytical monitoring of seawater to determine the content of petroleum products, iron ions, nitrates, nitrites, phosphates and ammonia nitrogen in the samples. A total of 12.5 thou environmental studies were conducted at Chernomortransneft’s operating facilities in Q1 2021: analyses of soil, atmospheric air, wastewater and natural waters. No excess of the established limits has been detected.


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