VR Group is committed to ensuring that its operations do not pollute the soil or the groundwater.
The aim is that there are no major leaks contaminating the soil in the transport of hazardous substances or in the use of chemicals. There were no major leaks in the transport of hazardous substances in 2014.
Risk assessments were conducted on the eleven biggest rail yards handling transports of hazardous substances (Kouvola, Riihimäki, Sköldvik, Tampere, Kotka/Mussalo, Hamina, Vainikkala, Joensuu, Niirala, Kokkola/Ykspihlaja and Oulu) and the safety reports for the yards were approved. Corresponding measures have already been carried out in Turku as part of the piloting of risk assessment and safety reporting.
Accident exercises were held in Joensuu, Riihimäki, Turku and Sköldvik.
VR Group has a long history and it owns a large number of properties where soil contamination that occurred decades ago requires risk management. For many years, VR has been cleaning up soil contaminated in the past by rolling stock maintenance and refuelling.
In 2014 the Group spent EUR 1.5 million (EUR 1.0 million) on soil surveys and cleanup. Soil was cleaned up in Helsinki, Pori, Kokkola, Kuopio and Oulu. In Kokkola, the fuelling point of the locomotive shed was cleaned up, while in the other four locations, it was a question of new construction or changes in use.
Groundwater monitoring required by authorities was carried out at the Hyvinkää workshop, at the Helsinki depot in Ilmala, at the Kaipiainen rail welding workshop, at the Kokkola and Mikkeli locomotive sheds, at the Kouvola depot, at the site of the former Pasila workshop, at the Riihimäki depot and at the Turku depot. At the Hyvinkää workshop and the Riihimäki depot, oil was removed from groundwater by pumping.
Three major leaks
There were three major fuel or oil leaks during the year. In January, a locomotive derailed at Suomussalmi rail yard causing a fuel leak. As a result, contaminated soil had to be removed to the depth of over two metres.
In March, more than 100 litres of hydraulic oil leaked out of a shunting locomotive at the Helsinki depot. Soil was replaced at the site and the stormwater was led to the sanitary sewer for ten days.
In November, a train of freight wagons hit the side of a locomotive at an industrial area in Lappeenranta. As a result, nearly 1,000 litres of fuel leaked out of the fuel tank. Groundwater monitoring was started in the area and the soil will be cleaned up if necessary.
At the end of February, propanal or propionaldehyde was discovered in a ditch near the Tampere depot. The likely source of the substance was the coolant used in the locomotives, which had leaked into the soil and to the ditch. The leak had been caused by a malfunction in a wastewater pump. Propylene glycol concentrations in the sanitary and stormwater sewers are monitored and the recovery of propylene glycol during locomotive maintenance has been made more effective.
In December, there was a nitric acid leak in Turku, as a result of which a safety cordon of hundreds of metres was put in place around the area. In the end, however, the leak proved to be very small and there was no damage to the environment.
The examination of responsibilities concerning the polluted sediments of Pajuluoma in Seinäjoki is continuing. There have been a large number of operators in the area over the years and the pollution occurred decades ago. The pollution is partially a result of the activities during the period when the Finnish State Railways had operations at the rail yard. VR Group has cleaned up the soil of the site in its possession and surveys show that contaminants are no longer discharged from the area into Pajuluoma.
In summer 2014, the ELY Centre for Southern Ostrobothnia submitted an application for administrative constraint to the Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland requesting the agency to order VR-Group Ltd and the Finnish Transport Agency and, secondarily, the State of Finland, to clean up the contaminated sediments in an area covering one kilometre. The matter is still pending.
VR Group is continuing to develop its operations so that leaks originating from its rolling stock can be prevented.
Soil cleanup will continue as part of changes in land use and construction activities and on the basis of reviews and surveys. Most of the sites owned by VR Group are located in town and city centres. They are sought-after sites for office and housing construction. Changes in urban structures and the trend towards more compact cities will also increase the need for decontamination of the sites.