Concerns oil spill from Siberia could reach Arctic Ocean

James Marshall
June 10, 2020

A fuel tank at a power station in the city of Norilsk lost pressure in late May, leaking 21,000 tonnes of diesel into rivers and subsoil.

A governor in Siberia has accused local officials of trying to cover up the true scale of a massive fuel spill for two days, exacerbating what has been described as the Arctic's worst environmental disaster in three decades.

Russian authorities have charged the director of an Arctic power plant that leaked 20,000 tons of diesel fuel into the ecologically fragile region with violating environmental regulations, a crime that could bring five years in prison.

The power plant is operated by a division of Norilsk Nickel, whose giant plants in the area have made Norilsk, 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) northeast of Moscow, one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world.

A spokeswoman for the taskforce in charge of the accident clean-up told AFP last week that the spill had been contained.

Specialists from the region's Ministry of Ecology announced on Monday that they had detected high fuel concentrations beyond the floating barriers in the Ambarnaya River. "Naturally, it has both fish and a good biosphere", said Krasnoyarsk region governor Alexander Uss, according to Interfax news agency. Lake Pyasino is about 70 kilometers long.

The lake that it's now reached called Lake Pyasino is about 20 kilometers north of Norilsk.

Dyachenko said that "experts on the ground are confident that most of (the spill) can be cleaned", while this must be done before cold weather sets in.

The head of Russia's natural resources agency Rosprirodnadzor, Svetlana Radionova, has denied that any fuel has reached the lake.

Chuprov also warned of "harmful consequences" if the pollution reaches the Kara Sea, which he said Greenpeace feared would happen.

Its teams have been unable to access the site due to restrictions in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, he said.

Thawing permafrost beneath the fuel tank is believed to have caused the spill that turned the local river crimson.

In materials distributed on Tuesday, Norilsk Nickel said the fuel reservoir was built in 1985 and underwent repairs in 2017 and 2018 after which it went through a safety audit.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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