The Environmental Unit is an expert department located at the Headquarters of the Construction Establishment. Its primary task is to produce environmental protection services for the Finnish Defence Forces. Sara Kajander heads the Environmental Unit.
The Environmental Unit is responsible for
Its areas of expertise are the environmental impact of military operation and their management, such as the environmental behaviour of explosives and metals. In addition, the Environmental Unit has competence in the field of environmental protection of training activities, munitions disposal, weapons systems and military equipment and crisis management operations.
Another important task of the Environmental Unit is to manage the development of the Construction Establishment’s environmental responsibility and environmental management in line with the management policy. The aim in the near future is to introduce an environmental management system that is based on the ISO 14001 standard, which is integrated into the ERP system, and incorporates an energy control section. The largest environmental impacts of the establishment’s operations are related to the energy consumption of buildings and emissions from energy production. We assist the other sectors in matters relating to the management of fuels and other chemicals.
The Environmental Services direct and coordinate analysis and cleanup projects on contaminated soil and groundwater, funded by the Finnish Defence Forces. Each year, tens of analyses and a few more extensive soil cleanups are carried out. Contamination is most commonly due to heavy metals (e.g., lead on shooting ranges) and oil (e.g., fuel storage). In recent years, a number of old landfill sites located in groundwater areas have also been cleaned up. In general, the need for a cleanup is triggered by significant and urgent environmental damage, abandonment of an area or a requirement by the authorities.
The operations of the Finnish Defence Forces in a shooting and training area or at a shooting range cause environmental impacts. Contaminants getting into the soil, surface water or groundwater can spoil the environment and, in the most serious cases, cause health hazards. The location of the area of operations in relation to the surrounding residential areas and the special characteristics of the environment determine the likelihood and significance of the impacts. The environmental experts of the Finnish Defence Forces and the Construction Establishment of Finnish Defence Administration have been actively investigating the environmental impact of shooting ranges since the 1990s. Shooting ranges may cause environmental impacts as a result of noise pollution or, when lead contained by bullets gets into the soil, surface water and groundwater.
The shooting ranges of the Finnish Defence Forces are subject to an environmental permit, and the permits require the use of the Best Available Techniques (BAT) in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act. In 2010, a national BAT study was launched at the initiative of the Finnish Defence Forces with the purpose of determining the best available techniques and practices for managing the environmental impacts of outdoor shooting ranges. The study resulted in a guide published by the Environmental Administration in September 2014.
The Finnish Defence Forces have developed a comprehensive development plan to improve the environmental protection of shooting ranges, with the aim of increasing the level of environmental protection of the shooting ranges to meet the requirements of the granted environmental permits and BAT principles during 2012 to 2018. The project has been funded by the Finnish Defence Forces and Senate Properties. The environmental sector of the Construction Establishment is responsible for coordinating the improvement project of the environmental protection of the shooting ranges of the Finnish Defence Forces.
Shooting and training areas
According to their purpose of use, shooting and training areas are divided into shooting and training areas where heavy weapons are fired and larger explosions are performed, and training areas where other basic skills of a soldier are trained, mainly using handguns. One quarter of the shooting range areas and nine of the major shooting and training areas are located in groundwater areas.
The Finnish Defence Forces have completed a study on the development needs for the environmental protection of shooting and training operations. A programme has been launched based on the results for the case-by-case analysis of the environmental condition of individual firing and training areas. Environmental reports have been drawn up for the major operating areas, assessing the impact of the operations on soil, groundwater, surface water and air. The environmental report will serve as a baseline for the assessment of operational risks, thereby directing the further development of environmental protection and providing a basis for the preparation of monitoring programmes.
The Environmental Services direct the centralised establishment and coordination of a national environmental monitoring system. The development of a location information system for environmental information is also closely linked to this endeavour. The updating work of site-specific monitoring programmes utilises the results of the environmental reports for the shooting and training areas. Surface and groundwater monitoring programmes covering the entire area and its operations will be drawn up for the shooting ranges most important for the environment. In addition to annual monitoring, more specific surface water or groundwater analyses are often performed in these areas; the results allow the adjustment of the focus areas and coverage of the monitoring programmes.