Finland is known for having extreme weather conditions in the wintertime. We get a lot of snow every winter and the snow needs to be removed from the streets to allow, for smooth traffic flow. Some of the snow collected from the streets of Helsinki is dumped into the sea, which raises the question if some contaminants end up in the natural waters with the snow. That is why Helsinki City Construction Services, Stara, who are responsible for the winter street maintenance, was looking for external innovation partners in a competition to improve the sustainability of snow handling operations. The goal of the innovation competition was to find technologies to promote more convenient and environmentally friendly snow handling and treatment. Sensmet was selected as one of the competition winners with its proposal to monitor in real-time impurities in snow meltwater to increase information and understanding on the issue.
The preliminary meltwater monitoring tests were carried out in spring 2020. Currently, the meltwater quality measurements are in progress at Kyläsaari snow collection station where the snow collected from the city streets is being melted and mixed with cleaned municipal wastewater. “This project has been really interesting to work with. It has been great to see that the City of Helsinki and Stara is finding ways to overcome challenges with snow – not only storing, moving, and melting it but also finding ways to increase information on environmental and sustainability aspects,” notes Sensmet’s R&D Chemist Miisamari Jeskanen.
Sensmet technology has an exceptional advantage because of its ability to run in extreme conditions to provide comprehensive water quality information in real-time. In the measurement campaign, Sensmet uses a new mobile monitoring trailer, inside of which the water analyser together with all required sample pre-treatment units and accessories is installed. After proper preparations, the site installation of the monitoring trailer can be accomplished at best just in one hour. The mobile trailer is air-conditioned, and the water sampling lines are heated to secure reliable 24/7 operation under freezing winter conditions down to -50°C. The parameters of interest in the first measurement campaign are selected metals, turbidity, and total hydrocarbons. The real-time data on the snow meltwater quality can open a totally new view on the details of the treatment process. Such data can be used to support the assessment of environmental impacts and sustainability of melting the snow.
“Transparent and reliable information helps to monitor the state of the environment, and decision-makers to create more environmentally-friendly solutions for the development of snow handling. I believe that the technology of Sensmet will attract a wide interest – not only in Finland but also abroad,” Miisamari adds.
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