20,000 Litres Of Oil Spilled In Arctic Circle Prompts State Of Emergency
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared a state of emergency in the city of Norilsk, Siberia, after 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil leaked into the Ambarnaya river from a power plant.
The spill happened after a fuel tank at the the Norilsk power plant collapsed on Friday, May 29. Fifteen thousand tonnes of oil products seeped into the river system – turning the water red – while another 6,000 tonnes poured into the subsoil, starting a fire and contaminating an area of 350 sq km (135 sq miles).
Officials had reportedly initially tried to contain the spill on their own, and there was a two-day delay before they informed Moscow authorities. The Russian Investigative Committee (SK) has now launched a criminal investigation into the pollution caused, as well as alleged negligence.
Director of the power plant, Vyacheslav Starostin, has since taken been into custody until July 31, but has not yet been charged.
Russian Minister for Emergencies Yevgeny Zinichev informed President Putin that the Norilsk plant had alerted the ministry after spending two days trying to contain the spill.
As reported by Sky News, President Putin slammed local authorities for their response during a televised government meeting.
Expressing shock at how long it had taken for the spill to be reported, President Putin criticised the region’s governor, Alexander Uss, stating:
What are we to learn about emergency situations from social networks? Are you alright healthwise over there?
The company has said it is currently doing everything possible to clean up the spill, having brought in specialists from Moscow who have now sectioned off the area to prevent the oil spill from spreading further.
A spokesperson stated that specialists anticipate being able to draw off the fuel from the river within 10 to 14 days, noting that it is still too early to get an idea of the damage which has been caused.
The state fisheries agency has referred to the spill as being an ‘ecological catastrophe’, asserting that the water system will now take decades to recover.
As per CNN, Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects of Russia’s WWF branch, has made the following statement:
The incident led to catastrophic consequences and we will be seeing the repercussions for years to come. We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds, and poisoned animals.
The power plant – which is located an approximate 1,800 miles (2,900km) northeast of Moscow – is owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, a world leading producer of nickel and palladium.
Norilsk is amongst the most highly polluted cities on Earth, topping the list for worst sulphur dioxide pollution as per a 2018 NASA study.
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