The leakage of diesel oil from a storage tank in Norilsk is unprecedented and will have a significant negative impact on endangered local environment, environmental authorities confirm, as the scale of last week’s disaster becomes increasingly clear. The Rosprirodnarzor Environmental Control Authority now takes soil and water samples daily and says a preliminary evaluation will be ready by the end of June. The Rosprirodnarzor Environmental Control Authority now takes soil and water samples daily and says a preliminary evaluation will be ready by the end of June.
About 21 thousand tons of diesel oil spilled from an oil tank of Norilsk-Taymyr Energy Company on May 29. At least 15,000 tonnes are believed to have flowed into local rivers and streams. The damage to the environment can be estimated at several billion rubles, the managing director of
The video-conference was the second high-level meeting on the huge oil spill on the remote Arctic Taymyr Peninsula. At the first meeting on June 3, Putin sharply criticized the regional authorities in Krasnoyarsk district, as well as Nornickel, for their handling of the disaster. News on the disaster had been delayed for a few days. Putin asked: ‘Is it customary for me to recieve word on such disasters only from social media?’ In a recent conversation, Putin sharpened his criticism of Nornickel and his boss Vladimir Potanin. At the first meeting on June 3, Putin sharply criticized the regional authorities in Krasnoyarsk district, as well as Nornickel, for their handling of the disaster. In a recent conversation, Putin sharpened his criticism of Nornickel and his boss Vladimir Potanin.
Putin vs. Potanin
Nornickel must bear the full cost of restoring the environment in the area, Putin stressed to Nornickelchief and majority owner Potanin.
“The owners have a duty to completely eliminate the pollution of the soil and water,” Putin said, adding that a comprehensive compensation system must be established to restore biodiversity and nature in the area.
He also clarified that the Russian General Prosecutor and the Investigative Committee will carefully investigate the case in order to find reasons and assess the damage.
“We’re going to pay whatever it costs,” Potanin replied. He added that he believed the price of the clean-up would be “ten billion rubles and more” (130 million Euro).
Nornickel is the full owner of the Norilsk-Taymyr energy company and manages the huge industrial facilities of the city of Norilsk and the surrounding Taymyr-Tundra. Nornickel had a dubious ecological reputation before. Air pollution around the company’s industrial facilities in Norilsk and on the Kola Peninsula is among the worst in Russia.
The Russian authorities have long been divided on how to eliminate the huge quantities of harmful substances from the remote and sensitive Arctic environment.
Incineration was initially seen as the best alternative to the elimination of oil products. But this alternative has now been abandoned.
Instead, a large number of special tanks will be flown into the area and placed along the worst-affected rivers and lakes. Spilled oil is then pumped into the tanks.
Nornickel has organised the tanks, which can eventually hold up to 16,000 tons of the spilled diesel fuel. The first tanks will be installed on site,
Removal only in winter
According to Emergency Minister Yevgeny Zinichev, the containers are hermetically sealed and safe to use. However, they are not removed from the area before winter, when the tundra freezes. It will then be possible to transport them out of the area on solid frozen ground.
The worst affected rivers are Daldykan and Ambarnaya, as well as the connecting streams and rivers. The area has now been divided into sectors that will be cleaned by teams of clean-up personnel.
Nearly 500 people from the Ministry of Emergency Situations (Emercom) are now on site. In addition, there are personnel of the Federal Maritime Rescue Service. Experts from the oil companies Gazprom Neft and Transneft are also active in the area.
Ten helicopters are in operation, and by June 8, a total of 16,994 cubic meters of contaminated soil had been removed and deposited in safe locations, Emercom said. In addition, more than 1,000 cubic meters of polluted water are pumped out of rivers every day, the ministry said.
No independent information
Progress is reported to be significant. According to the Maritime Rescue Service, there are virtually no signs of pollution in one of the worst-affected areas, the Ambarnaya River.
The spilled oil is initially pumped to temporary facilities along the river, whereupon it is further pumped to larger deposits up to 500 meters from the waterways, the rescue service informs.
However, floods and bad weather have made operations more difficult. In several cases, oil has flowed back from lakes into connected rivers, and cleaning staff have had to repeatedly lay oil barriers to prevent the substances from spreading.
Information on the situation is strictly controlled by the authorities and it is not clear whether independent environmental experts have been granted permission to enter the area.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal