Results of water samples taken in Poland indicate significant phosphorous leakages from phosphogypsum stacks

Press release 2013-07-23 at 12:36

Press release by the Ministry of the Environment and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

In June, the Ministers of the Environment of Poland and Finland agreed on a joint sampling mission between the two countries in order to estimate the possible phosphorous leakages of the two of Poland’s phosphogypsum stacks. The analyses of the samples taken at the start of July are now complete and the results will be announced today. The analysis results of the samples taken at the phosphogypsum stack in Gdansk indicate significant phosphorous leakages. In Police, the phosphorous concentrations of samples taken downstream of the phosphogypsum stack were slightly elevated. Due to the scarcity of available data on phosphorous concentrations and water flow, it is not possible to reliably quantify the potential loads caused by the phosphogypsum stacks. Thus, further monitoring studies are suggested to determine both phosphorus fluxes in the areas and the magnitude of possible inputs of phosphorus to the Baltic Sea.

A vessel carrying apatite from Africa to the fertilizer plant in Police. A  phosphogypsum stack on the background. Photo taken July 3, 2013 by Antti Räike / SYKE

In Gdansk, the concentrations of phosphorous and harmful substances were sampled in ponds and ditches near the phosphogypsum stack, and the Dead Vistula, a water body next to the area. In Police, samples were taken from the River Oder, its side channels and the purified waste water lead to the river in the area surrounding the phosphogypsum stack.

The Finnish participants of the expedition inlcuded Senior Research Scientist Antti Räike and Hydrologist Jarkko Koskela from SYKE and Research Expert Jyrki Vuorinen from the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. A hydrologist joined the research team in order to determine water flow in the area.

The researchers brought back a total of 40 litres in water samples, which were analysed in the Finnish Environment Institute’s laboratories in Helsinki and Oulu. Meanwhile Polish researchers analysed corresponding samples in their own laboratories in Gdansk and Szczecin.  The Polish and Finnish analysis results were consistent with each other in both areas.

High phosphorous concentrations near the phosphogypsum stack in Gdansk

”According to the results, phosphate and total phosphorus concentrations are very high in the Dead Vistula beside the phosphogypsum stack. This former channel of the river Vistula no longer has a permanent flow towards the sea, which weakens mixing and dilution and causes higher phosphorous concentrations in the channel than in an ordinary river. It is also possible that the bottom sediments of the Dead Vistula contain phosphorous from the phosphogypsum stacks, which raise phosphorous concentrations when released into the water. Based on these results, it seems that at least in Gdansk, more intensive measures are needed to reduce the phosphorous load caused by the phosphogypsum stack,” says Senior Research Scientist Antti Räike from SYKE.

In Police, the results of joint sampling confirm the credibility of data generated by the company and the long time monitoring data series of the environmental authorities. Unlike in Gdansk, the waters from the leachate ditches of the Police phosphogypsum stack are collected and pumped to a waste water treatment plant. However, possible effects of the phosphogypsum stack on the quality of recipient water cannot be completely ruled out based on the results.

Further studies required

”The ministers have agreed to come back on further actions,” says Timo Tanninen, Director General of the Ministry of the Environment.

Further information:

In Finland:

Director General Timo Tanninen, Ministry of the Environment, tel +358 40 531 9335

Senior Research Scientist Antti Räike, Finnish Environment Institute (sample results), tel +358 400 148 521

Hydrologist Jarkko Koskela, SYKE (hydrology of the phosphogypsum stack areas), tel +358 40 508 1004

Special Researcher Seppo Knuuttila, SYKE (the phosphogypsum problem of fertilizer production), tel +358 40 760 9232

In Poland

Contacts for press:

Spokesman Paweł Mikusek - phone: (+48 22) 57-92-722, e-mail:

Press Unit (Ministry of Environment),, PU team: + 48 22 5792 307
+ Last three digits: 838, 219, 238,376


Communication and Promotion Team

Joanna Józefiak - phone: (+48 22) 57-92-257
Monika Kita - phone: (+48 22) 57-92-767
Aleksandra Majchrzak - phone: (+48 22) 57-92-385
Michał Milewski – phone: (+48 22) 57-92-245
Grzegorz Zygan - phone: (+48 22) 57-92-238