Environmental protection regulations

The objective of environmental protection regulations of the City of Helsinki is to prevent environmental pollution according to the Environmental Protection Act. Everyone in the city is subject to these regulations.

On this page

The current environmental protection regulations have been in effect since 15.7.2018 as decided by the Environment and Permits Sub-committee of the Urban Environment Committee.

General regulations

Section 1 Objective, scope of application and relation to other regulations

The objective of environmental protection regulations is to prevent environmental pollution while taking local conditions into account.

These environmental protection regulations must be abided by in the City of Helsinki in order to fulfil the responsibilities specified in the Environmental Protection Act (527/2014). These regulations are valid throughout the city, unless otherwise specified later on.

The regulations are not applied to operations that are subject to a permit or registration based on the Environmental Protection Act. The regulations are also not applied to actions in accordance with section 31 of the Environmental Protection Act, situations in accordance with section 120 of the Environmental Protection Act or the notification procedure specified in subsection 1 of section 136 of the Environmental Protection Act or operations of the Finnish Defence Forces and the Finnish Border Guard.

These regulations are not applied to the handling and storage of chemicals by facilities conducting limited or large-scale industrial handling and storage of chemicals, which is subject to a permit or a notification.

Environmental protection regulations are observed alongside other municipal regulations and simultaneously with them, where applicable. These regulations include the waste management regulations in the Helsinki region and the City of Helsinki building order.

Section 2 Issuing and monitoring environmental protection regulations

The administrative regulations of the City of Helsinki (City Council 3 May 2017, Section 206) delegate the issuing of environmental protection regulations to the City Environment Committee’s Environment and Permits Sub-committee that issues orders on the basis of section 202 of the Environmental Protection Act (527/2014).

Compliance with regulations is monitored by the municipal environmental protection authority, which in Helsinki comprises the City Environment Committee’s Environment and Permits Sub-committee and the City of Helsinki Environment Services (kaupunkiymparisto@hel.fi(Link opens default mail program), +358 (0)9 310 1635).

Section 3 Local conditions

The City of Helsinki has areas that require more specific regulations on preventing, removing and reducing environmental contamination.

Important groundwater areas refers to the groundwater areas of Vartioharju, Tattarisuo, Vuosaari, Santahamina, Isosaari and Fazerila, which is partly located in Vantaa.  Groundwater areas are specified in the Helsinki map service, for example (Kartta.hel.fi -> Environment and nature -> Geotechnical material).

Flood risk areas refers to areas that are likely to be submerged by water during sea floods occurring once every fifty years. The areas are indicated in the flood map service maintained by the Finnish Environment Institute.

The facts that Helsinki mainly consists of densely built areas and that Helsinki has plenty of beaches and islands with no road access are also considered local conditions.

Construction site water, wastewater, toilet waste, snow dumping sites and manure processing

Section 4 The processing and management of construction site water on temporary construction sites

Construction site water refers to water or sludge generated on construction sites, such as lower and/or upper groundwater seeping into the construction building pits, rainwater, drainage water from areas surrounding pits, water used for various work processes such as drilling as well as water or sludge generated during the renovation of external building surfaces, which must then be conveyed away from the site in order to continue construction.

 

Construction site water generated by construction and renovation sites and other temporary operations containing an amount of harmful substances that causes a risk of pollution must not be directed into the sea, a water body specified in the Water Act (587/2011), the sewer network or open ditches without pre-processing that either removes the harmful substances or sufficiently decreases the amount of harmful substances in the water. The absorption of water into the ground requires that the construction site water will not pollute the groundwater. The water directed into the drainage water system must not cause any blockages or corrosion in the sewer network.



If construction site water is going to be directed into the drainage, waste or combined sewer system, you must contact the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY). HSY may set requirements for the quality and quantity of the water being directed into the waste water and combined sewer system.

Section 5 Wastewater treatment in areas not connected to a sewer network of a water management authority

The absorption of untreated toilet wastewater into the ground is prohibited. The absorption of untreated toilet wastewater and other domestic wastewater into the ground is prohibited in important groundwater areas.



Building flush toilets in holiday homes on waterfront areas and in the archipelago is prohibited, unless the property is connected to the water supply and sewer system.



The archipelago refers to islands with no permanent road access.

Section 6 The placement and maintenance of domestic wastewater treatment equipment and toilets

The treatment system for domestic wastewater and the point of discharge for treated domestic wastewater on properties must be located at a safe distance from water bodies, domestic wells, ditches or similar channels as well as the border of the property. The sufficient distance is determined case-specifically. The minimum safety distance to water bodies is usually at least 25 metres.

 

The absorption piping in the absorption area must be located at least one metre above the topmost groundwater level, if possible. The lower surface of the absorption area must be located at least 50 centimetres above the topmost groundwater level, if possible.

The possessor of the property must ensure that the domestic wastewater treatment equipment is functional in all conditions and that its efficiency corresponds to the requirements specified in the Government Decree on treating domestic wastewater in areas not connected to the sewer system (157/2017). Settling wells and sewage tanks must be emptied frequently enough. Sewage tanks must be equipped with an overfill alarm. The emptying of settling wells and closed sewage tanks must comply with the waste management regulations of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Kirkkonummi.

Property owners must be knowledgeable about the structure, condition and maintenance of their systems as well as the emptying of the tanks. Owners must keep a record of any maintenance performed on the equipment and the emptying of tanks, which must be presented to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority upon request. The possessor of the property must order the emptying of their septic and sewage tank sludge from the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) in accordance with the common waste management regulations of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Kirkkonummi. Receipts of these transactions must be kept in the property’s maintenance records for three years.

The wastewater treatment system that discharges the treated water into a ditch or absorption pit, for example, must be designed so that representative samples may be taken from the water exiting and entering it in order to ensure efficient treatment. 

The bottom sections of composting and dry toilets must be impermeable, and the toilets must be maintained so that they do not cause pollution in the groundwater or other hazards to the environment or health.

Section 7 Placement of outside paddocks and horseback-riding fields and manure removal

In order to prevent water pollution, outside paddocks and horseback-riding fields must be located at a sufficient distance from water bodies and main ditches as well as wells and springs used for acquiring domestic water. Outside paddocks or pastures must not be located in flood risk areas. Outside paddocks refers to open yards with no plant cover for the year-round use of horses and ponies.

The locations of new outside paddocks and horseback-riding fields must comply with the following minimum safety distances depending on the conditions on the plot and its immediate vicinity:

 

  • distance to domestic water well or spring 30–100 metres
  • distance to water body 20–50 metres
  • distance to main ditch 10–30 metres

Manure must be removed from outside paddocks and horseback-riding fields daily and placed into a watertight manure storage area. The topsoil of outside paddocks and horseback-riding fields must be replaced when necessary.

A written agreement or receipt must be available for the assignment of manure, which must be presented to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority upon request.

Establishing a stable or expanding the operations significantly must be reported to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority in advance for the purposes of gaining the necessary information for monitoring.

Section 8 The washing and maintenance of vehicles, machines and similar equipment

The professional and other frequent washing of vehicles, machines and similar equipment, or washing using detergents containing hydrocarbon solvents is only allowed in locations where the water can be directed to or collected in the sewage drain through oil and sand separators. Professional washing operations may only utilise approved detergent combinations.

When washing vehicles, machines and similar equipment occasionally using detergents that do not contain hydrocarbon solvents, the water may be absorbed into the ground with permission from the land-owner, provided that it does not cause environmental pollution. Water containing detergents or other agents causing a pollution risk must not be directed to drainage water sewers or open ditches.

Solids and untreated wastewater generated by the washing of vehicles, machines and similar equipment or transfer plates must not be allowed to seep into the sea, water bodies specified in the Water Act or open ditches.  Solids and untreated wastewater generated by washing must not be allowed to seep into public areas.

You must not wash or service machinery on work sites located in important groundwater areas.

Section 9 The washing and maintenance of boats

Washing boats with detergents containing hydrocarbon solvents is only allowed on sites where the washing water is directed into sewage drains through oil separators.

Washing boats with detergents that do not contain hydrocarbon solvents is allowed in winter storage areas if the wastewater is absorbed into the ground sufficiently far from the shoreline with permission from the land-owner.

The wastewater from occasional washing of boats using only water may be allowed to seep into the sea.

The primer on the bottom of boats must be removed over a sealed area that prevents environmentally hazardous primer waste from entering the soil and that allows for careful collection and disposal of any primer residue. Paint waste must be disposed of in the manner required for the nature of the waste in question. You must prevent the dust generated by grinding boats from spreading into the environment.

Section 10 Snow dump areas

Snow dump areas must be located and implemented so that the melt water or the waste within the snow do not pollute or cause a risk of pollution. It is prohibited to establish a public snow dump area in an important groundwater area. The prohibition does not apply to establishing local snow dump areas whose use does not involve truck traffic and on which the snow is allowed to melt, or to the establishing of temporary intermediate snow storage areas.

You must give written notice of establishing and opening a public snow dump area to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority well in advance of starting the operation. The notification must contain information on the location of the site, the start date of operations, traffic arrangements, daily operating hours, the amount of snow the site is intended for, any snow processing methods, the manner of disposing of melt water and after-treatment measures. This duty to notify does not apply to the establishment of local snow dump areas or temporary intermediate storage areas as mentioned above.  

The operation of the snow dump area or the related traffic may not cause unreasonable disturbance to residential or accommodation premises or care institutions. The use of snow dump areas in the night-time is subject to what has been decreed in section 22 of these regulations on disturbing noise and vibration at night-time.

The use of snow dump areas is prohibited during night-time between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., if the use or related traffic causes unreasonable disturbance to residential or accommodation premises or care institutions.

The possessor of the snow dump area must ensure that the area is cleaned without delay after the snow has melted.

Storage of chemicals

Section 11 General regulations governing the storage of hazardous chemicals and waste

The storage of hazardous chemicals and waste must comply with the following general regulations:

  1. Liquid chemicals and waste must be stored in a manner preventing the chemicals and waste from seeping into the environment if an accident were to occur. This means that liquid chemicals must be stored in double-walled tanks, tanks placed in separate protective bunds, separate storage areas designed and built for the storage of chemicals and waste or some other storage area that prevents the chemicals from entering the environment.



    The protective bund or storage area must be leak-proof, it must be able to withstand the chemicals or waste contained in it and it must have a volume equivalent at least to the largest container stored in the protective bund.  Rainwater must be prevented from entering the bund.



    When stored outside, liquid chemicals and waste must be placed on leak-proof and load-bearing platforms. Outside storage areas for liquid chemicals and waste must be fenced and locked or unauthorised access must be prevented in other ways.



    Processing and storage areas must be equipped with absorbent material and any other necessary equipment to collect leaks.



    In flood risk areas, the storage of chemicals and waste must be organised so that the chemicals and waste cannot be spread into the environment in the event of floods.



    The regulations specified above do not apply to the storage of minor quantities of chemicals and waste in households.



    The handling of hazardous waste is also subject to what has been regulated in the waste management regulations of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Kirkkonummi.

     
  2. Permanent refuelling stations for fuels and other chemicals must be placed on leak-proof, load-bearing platforms that can withstand chemicals.  The fuel tanks must be placed at an elevation of at least 100 mm from the surface of the platform. In addition, the refuelling station must be constructed so that the chemicals cannot enter the soil, water bodies or the sewer system in the event of an accident.



    Transportable fuel tanks must be placed on leak-proof platforms unless the structure of the tank incorporates a reservoir, double bottom or double wall or the tank is located in a covered protective bund.  The tank must be placed so that the fuel cannot seep into the sewer system or water bodies in the event of an accident.



    Refuelling stations must be equipped with absorbent material and equipment for the collection and storage of any leaks.



    These regulations do not apply to refuelling stations on boat station piers or refuelling stations for heating oil containers used in properties.



    Tanks used for the storage of fuel and other chemicals must be in good condition and equipped with at least the following:



    - type plate

    - anti-syphon device

    - air pipe

    - lockable filler opening

    - overfill protector.



    The refuelling valve and feed pump of the tank must be locked outside working hours and at other times as well, if necessary, to prevent unauthorised use.

     
  3. The tank possessor or owner must have underground oil, fuel and other chemical containers in use and located outside important groundwater areas inspected for first time 15 years after their commissioning, the second time 10 years after the first inspection and the third time and onwards 5 years after the last inspection, unless more frequent inspections are necessary due to the condition classification of the container. An inspection record must be drafted of the inspection and it must be stored and presented to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority upon request. Inspections may only be carried out by an inspector deemed qualified by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes).



    Any accidents occurring in connection with hazardous waste or chemicals must be reported to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority without delay.

Section 12 Additional regulations governing the storage of hazardous chemicals and waste in important groundwater areas

In addition to what has been specified in section 11, the storage of hazardous chemicals and waste in tanks in important groundwater areas must comply with the following regulations:

  1. Fixed oil, fuel and other chemical storage tanks located outside buildings must be double-walled. Tanks must be equipped with an alarm system for any leaks between the walls.

     
  2. The tank possessor or owner must have inspected over ground oil, fuel and other chemical containers in use for first time 10 years after their commissioning, the second time 5 years after the first inspection and the third time and onwards 5 years after the last inspection, unless more frequent inspections are necessary due to the condition classification of the container. The tank inspection record must be stored, and a copy must be sent to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority within 14 days of the inspection. Inspections may only be carried out by an inspector deemed qualified by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes).

     
  3. In addition to the fuel in the fuel tanks of machinery, a maximum of 2,000 litres of fuel per contractor may be stored on work sites in separate containers at any one time.



    Acceptable containers include:



    - tanks equipped with fixed protective bunds

    - single-walled tanks placed in covered bunds corresponding to the size of the tank

    - type-approved and periodically inspected IBC containers placed in protective bunds.



    The soil structure of the refuelling area must be leak-proof and constructed from a material that is impermeable to the fuel being processed. The leak-proof area must cover an area expanding at least one metre from the filler opening and refuelling device.



    It is prohibited to store any other chemicals and waste posing a groundwater pollution risk in the work site.

Waste management and smoke nuisance

Section 13 Handling of containers removed from use

The container possessor or owner must empty, clean and inspect underground oil, fuel or other chemical containers that are removed from use.  The person performing the cleaning and inspection must be authorised for the inspection of chemical containers by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency. A certificate of the cleaning and inspection must be sent to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority.

The tank is removed from use once it is no longer needed for the storage of the chemicals mentioned above. The filler and air pipes of the tanks must be removed.

If necessary, the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority may require further reports or the removal of the tank from the soil, if the tank is damaged or there are other reasons to suspect that the chemical stored in the tank has seeped into the soil.

When the property is transferred to another possessor, the previous possessor must provide the new possessor with information on the tank and its location as well as the certificate of the cleaning operation.

Section 14 Handling waste at the property

It is prohibited to dispose of waste by burning.

You can burn dry, clean and untreated wood waste in an appropriate fireplace and use paper or cardboard as kindling.

It is prohibited to burn branch wood, logging waste, leaves and other gardening waste openly, including burning them in barrels or other receptacles. The prohibition does not apply to the occasional burning of dry branch wood and logging waste on islands with no road access, or the occasional open burning of dry branches, branch wood, straw, logging waste, leaves and other similar natural, non-hazardous plant waste in connection with agriculture and forestry, unless it causes unreasonable disturbance to the neighbours.

The possessor of the property must notify the utilisation of waste in earth construction to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority in writing, unless the use requires an environmental permit or is governed by the Government decree on the Recovery of Certain Wastes in Earth Construction (843/2017). The notification must be submitted at least 30 days in advance of the start of the utilisation.  This obligation does not apply to the use of gardening waste and compostable food and toilet waste as soil conditioner.

The notification must provide the following information:



- type of waste

- origin of waste

- pre-treatment of waste

- intended disposal location

- amount of waste to be disposed of

- time of disposal.

Any analysis results depicting the environmental impact of the waste, a map of the disposal location, an account of how the waste is going to be disposed of into the soil and the land-owner’s consent must be attached to the notification. A form for the notification can be found on the City of Helsinki website.

Any toilet and food waste used as soil conditioners must be composted to remove any hazard and its processing must not cause any risk of pollution.

The waste management regulations of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Kirkkonummi also regulate the composting and other treatment of waste. 

The use of flue dust and bottom ash generated by burning coal or oil as well as concrete and brick waste or other similar waste in earth construction in important groundwater areas is prohibited.

The possessor of the property must provide the new possessor of the property with pertinent information on the waste placed in the soil.

Section 15 Quality requirements for some wastes utilised in earth construction

Waste utilised in earth construction must be technically suitable for it and the waste must not contain significant amounts of substances that are hazardous to the environment or health.

Concrete and asphalt waste used for groundwork must consists of pieces with a maximum diameter of 150 mm, and the concrete waste must not contain significant amounts of reinforced steel or other waste.

The proportion of harmful substances in soil used for earth construction without a risk assessment must be below the threshold values mentioned in the Government Decree on the Assessment of Soil Contamination and Remediation Needs (214/2007).

Section 16 Preventing smoke nuisance

Heating and ventilation equipment must be adjusted, serviced and used so that the emissions do not harm health or comfort in general, or cause any other damage to the environment. The condition of heating equipment must be proven through an assessment issued by an expert upon request by the environmental protection authority.

Burning wood or any other solid fuel in fireplaces must not cause unreasonable smoke or odour nuisance to neighbours or the local environment.

Noise, vibration and dust control

Section 17 Obligation to notify and negotiate

The operator or commissioner of the work must provide an advance notification to the residents and care and educational institutions and any other parties that may be affected by the temporary operations that will cause particularly disruptive noise or vibration. The notification must be submitted at least one week before starting the operations that are likely to cause particularly disruptive noise or vibration, or if there is no knowledge of the operations at that time, immediately after the time of the operations is specified. 

In addition, the operator must discuss the reduction of particularly disruptive noise or vibration with people at sites where the operations are likely to cause unreasonable disturbance. Especially vulnerable sites like this include day-care centres, schools and religious institutions. 

Section 18 Passageway and yard maintenance and cleaning work

Generation of dust caused by mechanical removal of gritting sand or other mechanical maintenance and cleaning work must be prevented by dampening the area worked on, for example.

The use of leaf blowers for the purpose of removing gritting sand is prohibited.

Section 19 Dust suppression on construction sites

Construction and demolition work as well as the handling of construction waste, soil and rocks must be carried out in a manner that minimises nuisance posed by dust in all circumstances. You must always employ sufficiently efficient dust suppression methods in construction and demolition work as well as the handling of construction waste, soil and rocks, when dust may cause a nuisance or damage.



The heavy traffic access routes on construction sites must be kept as dust-free as possible by using a saline solution, for example. The street areas affected by construction sites must also be as free of the soil from the construction site as possible to minimise dust nuisance.



The soil and rocks being transported to and from sites as well as demolition waste must be kept as dust-free as possible, by dampening them, for example. Dusty loads must be dampened or covered when transported outside the construction site.



When renovating the external surfaces of buildings by sand blasting or using a similar method, the external surfaces must be covered to prevent dust, sand blasting waste and other impurities from spreading to the surroundings.



The windows and other openings in the walls of the building being renovated must be sealed so that dust and other harmful substances cannot enter the building. Automated ventilation must be switched off for the duration of the work, if necessary.



When removing paint chemically, sand blasting outer surfaces of buildings and removing sealants containing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) or lead, the surface of the soil must be protected by a leak-proof cover, for example, so that waste cannot enter the soil or the sewer system. When the work is finished, the yard and streets must be cleaned and any waste must be processed in accordance with what has been decreed for the nature of waste.



Emissions from machinery and equipment installed at the work site must be directed sufficiently far away from the air intakes of the building so that the fumes do not cause a health hazard to those in the building.

Section 20 Temporary excavation work

When open excavation is carried out less than 200 metres away from sites sensitive to dust, or when the transportation route of broken rocks runs near sites sensitive to dust, the drilling equipment must be equipped with suitable dust collection equipment, which must be used at all times when the work is being performed. The dust collection equipment must not be emptied at the blast site or among the broken rocks.

Section 21 Obligation to submit a notification of operations that will cause particularly disruptive noise or vibration

The operator must submit a written notification (noise notification) in accordance with section 118 of the Environmental Protection Act to the City of Helsinki’s environmental protection authority at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the operations for the following operations:

  1. Crushing of rock or mineral construction waste.
  2. Excavation (drilling, blasting, transport of rock), piling, drilling (with equipment attached to the booms of machinery) and high-efficiency vacuuming, if:

    - the operations are carried out at other times than between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday; or

    - the number of days of excavation exceeds 25.



    This does not apply to construction or renovation work related to traffic routes or community development, if the work is carried out from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday to Sunday and the number of work days does not exceed 25, if the performance of the work in the evenings and at weekends is considered necessary due to traffic safety, flow of traffic or some other justifiable reason.
  3. Professional construction, demolition, repair, maintenance or similar temporary work, which causes loud ground-borne noise in flats, day-care centres, schools and other facilities where the noise can cause unreasonable disturbance, if:

    - the operations are carried out at other times than between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday; or

    - the number of days of excavation exceeds 25.
  4. Outdoor concerts or other outdoor events with sound amplification organised between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  5. Motor sports events or air shows.
  6. Fireworks displays with rockets that exceed 100 mm in diameter or rockets of a similar noise effect fired after 10 p.m. Fireworks fired after midnight can be approved only for highly justified reasons.



    As an exception, fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve do not have to be reported.

Section 22 Particularly disruptive noise or vibration at night time

Operations causing particularly disruptive noise or vibration are prohibited in the vicinity of residential or accommodation premises and care facilities at night time between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.



This does not apply to construction or renovation work related to traffic routes or community development, or temporary work that must be performed at night time due to traffic safety, flow of traffic or some other justifiable reason.



This prohibition does not pertain to short-term events or operations, if the number, duration and end times of events organised in the same area during the year and the resulting noise do not constitute an unreasonable nuisance to those affected.



You must issue a notification and hold a discussion on sufficient prevention measures in accordance with section 17 for any night-time operations causing noise and vibration, if the time of the operations is known in advance.

Section 23 Street performances and the use of sound amplification equipment

The continuous outdoor use of sound amplification equipment by shops and restaurants is prohibited in the vicinity of residential or accommodation premises and care facilities at night time between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Continuous use of sound amplification equipment is also prohibited in the daytime near care facilities. In addition, sound amplification equipment directed outwards must always be adjusted so that the noise does not cause inconvenience or nuisance to the neighbourhood.



It is prohibited to use an external power supply for the sound amplification of street performances.

Other regulations

Section 24 Exceptions to environmental regulations

For special purposes, the municipal environmental protection authority may issue an individual case-specific permit to deviate from these regulations upon application.

Section 25 Consequences of neglecting or breaching environmental protection regulations

The consequences of neglecting or breaching environmental protection regulations and the related coercive measures are decreed in chapter 18 of the Environmental Protection Act.