Russian, Swedish and Finnish leaders inaugurated a wastewater treatment plant in St. Petersburg on Thursday in the latest effort to cut back on pollutants flowing into the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea.
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Tarja Halonen of Finland were joined by Swedish Premier Goran Persson at the Ђ174 million (US$213 million) Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant, which officials say will treat up to 85 percent of St. Petersburg's effluent using ultraviolet light.
Putin pledged further cooperation in large international environmental projects after the regional governor, Valentina Matviyenko, ceremonially turned on the sluices at the facility.
"We have made an important step in improving the life of people living in St. Petersburg and the Baltic region," he said, pointing out that the region is home to 50 million people.
"The result of this work demonstrates that we can be very efficient in our common work," Putin said.
"It is natural that our concern for the Baltic, too, is common. The coastal states have cooperated for decades in order to improve the condition of the Baltic, and great advances have been made," Halonen said, saying the treatment plant was one of those advances.
"The success we feel today should also serve as a strong incentive for continuation of environmental work. The Baltic Sea is still very polluted," Halonen said, reports the AP.