“The scale is impressive”: Representatives of the Russian Water Utilities Highly Appreciated the South-West Wastewater Treatment Plant


On June 8th, representatives of the Kaliningrad and Leningrad regions water utilities visited the South-West Wastewater Treatment Plant (SWWTP) and the “Pulkovo-3” surface runoff treatment facility of SUE “Vodokanal of St.Petersburg”.

The South-West Wastewater Treatment Plant is considered one of the major sanitation facilities in St.Petersburg and the Baltic Sea region as a whole, and the most modern wastewater treatment complex.

Dozens of companies were involved in the SWWTP project implementation. The project became the very first public-private partnership in Russia.

During the visit, Vodokanal specialists shared their experience in wastewater management and sludge disposal, and unveiled activities that the Company deems to be paramount for Vodokanal and St.Petersburg in terms of environmental safety.

Olga Rublevskaya, Director of the Water Supply and Wastewater Systems Analysis and Technological Development Department of SUE “Vodokanal of St.Petersburg”, updated the colleagues regarding the main measures that the Company is carrying out and plans to implement as part of the direct discharge closure program. The program goal is to improve the wastewater treatment quality and reduce the negative impact on the environment. With these regards, Olga Rublevskaya underlined the aeration systems reconstruction, tertiary treatment implementation, Automated Control System deployment, and construction and commissioning of the Okhta collector.

The Okhta collector is one of the largest environmental projects in recent years. The collector commissioning enabled elimination of the untreated wastewater discharge to the Okhta river, which is one of the largest tributaries of the Neva river. The first stage of construction facilitated rechanneling of 19 direct discharges and prevented untreated discharge of about 4.3 million cubic meters of wastewater per year. Wastewater is now directed to the Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant for treatment, thus the flow of pollutants into the Neva, the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea has been significantly reduced. The Okhta collector commissioning brought the level of household wastewater treatment in St. Petersburg to 99.5%.

During the tour, representatives of treatment facilities from different regions of the North-West of Russia visited the control room of the South-West Wastewater Treatment Plant (SWWTP), from where the wastewater treatment process is managed. Then the guests were acquainted with the mechanical treatment with screens, biological treatment and UV-disinfection of effluent.

The guests were especially interested in crayfish “employed” in the biomonitoring system. Australian crayfish live in aquariums with circulating treated wastewater. If this water quality deteriorates, crayfish will immediately react, and the plant operators will notice changes in its behavior, and will receive a signal from a special fiber-optic sensor attached to the creature shell. The device performs real-time monitoring of the animal's cardiac activity. The cardiac rate is monitored by continuous measurement and analysis of the photoplethysmogram, i.e. optical observation of light scattering dynamics, which changes in time with the heart beating. If the cardiac rate of all crayfish simultaneously rises sharply by 1.5 - 2 times, then a red signal will light up in the control room. This means that the required treatment efficiency is not achieved and the process requires prompt adjustments.

“I was impressed by the scale of the South-West Wastewater Treatment Plant and its inflow. Crayfish are just something amazing, we don't have such technology in Kaliningrad. In fact, it is always interesting to learn something new from colleagues, perhaps we will try to implement some of the demonstrated solutions in our region”, said Alexander German, director of MUP “Chernyakhovsk Sewerage Systems”.

In the second part of the day, Olga Rublevskaya shared the Company experience in surface runoff handling as exemplified by the Pulkovo-3 surface runoff treatment plant, which was attended by all the meeting participants after visiting the SWWTP. She noted that Vodokanal conducted research aimed at assessing the regularity of the seasonal dynamics of changes in the chemical composition of surface runoff. According to the research results, it turned out that surface runoff deterioration is most often observed in winter season, when snow on the Northern capital streets absorbs harmful substances and dirt. Olga Rublevskaya with this example furthermore underlined importance of snow-melting stations and surface runoff treatment plants (SRTPs) development.

In accordance with St.Petersburg water and wastewater master plan for the period up to 2025 with an outlook to 2030 and the forecast till 2040, it is planned to construct over 100 SRTPs in St.Petersburg with a total capacity exceeding 230 thousand cubic meters per day. At the Pulkovo-3 surface runoff treatment plant, the event participants were shown peat bed, which is a very effective and cost-efficient stage of surface runoff treatment and represents the first stage of filtration, where the bulk of suspended solids and oil products are retained.

Treatment efficiency according to laboratory control data reaches 90% for suspended solids and 95% for oil products. As a result, the pollution load on the subsequent filtration stages (sand and carbon filters) is significantly reduced. This enables reduction of backwashing, as well as extension of the filter material (sand and carbon) life cycle prior replacement. It all results in operating costs reduction.

“We arranged a training module together with partners from Kaliningrad, in which we talk about our achievements, projects implementation and demonstrate practical management of surface runoff. Participants of this module are representatives of water utilities, urban administrations, and scientific institutions of the Kaliningrad and Leningrad regions. I visited SWWTP three times, and I am ready to come here repeatedly as the scale of the plant and the wastewater treatment process itself, impress me. With such modules, colleagues from different cities and towns of Russia will be able to borrow treatment solutions for their facilities. And we also believe that such an expert community will help to obtain feedback on previously developed urban storm water management recommendations, including HELCOM recommendations”, explained Natalya Bobyleva, Deputy Director for International Cooperation and Environmental Education of GUP “Mineral”.


Over the past decade, Vodokanal of St.Petersburg has implemented a range of large-scale projects aimed at reducing the discharge of untreated wastewater and mitigating the anthropogenic load on the Neva, the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea.

Level of wastewater treatment in St.Petersburg reached 85% in 2005, following to the South-West Wastewater Treatment Plant commissioning.

In October 2013, the Northern Tunnel Collector construction was completed. It resulted in closure of 76 wastewater direct discharges. The project completion prevented discharge of 334 thousand cubic meters of wastewater per day into the Neva and elevated the wastewater treatment percentage to 98.3%.

58 direct discharges with a total flow of 41.2 thousand cubic meters per day were rechanneled in 2014-2018.

The percentage of treatment of household wastewater entering the combined centralized sewerage system reached 98.6% following to all the untreated wastewater discharge elimination measures of 2014-2018.

In December 2019, direct discharges elimination works were completed in the Petrogradsky district of St.Petersburg along the Karpovka river embankment, which enabled approaching 99% of wastewater treatment.

By 2030, Vodokanal plans to channel the entire volume of household wastewater to treatment facilities.