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Friday, October 16, 2020

Arctic: pollution reaches freshwater lake

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Fuel that escaped from a thermal power plant tank has now reached a 70 km long lake containing a significant biosphere.

Hydrocarbons reached a lake in the Russian Arctic, carried by the river touched at the end of May by an unprecedented pollution, indicated on Tuesday the governor of the concerned territory, which denies the group Norilsk Nickel.

The announcement comes after authorities believed last week that they had successfully stopped the spread of fuel with floating dams. On Monday evening, they finally admitted that the pollutants had not yet been contained.

“The fuel also entered Lake Piassino. It is a beautiful lake about 70 kilometers long containing fish and a beautiful biosphere, “said Krasnoyarsk region governor Alexander Ouss, quoted by Interfax news agency.

It is now “important to prevent (pollution) from reaching the Piassina River further north,” he added, saying it was “possible”. The stream flows into the Arctic Kara Sea.

On May 29, 21,000 tonnes of fuel contained in the tank of a thermal power plant belonging to a subsidiary of the large Russian mining group Norilsk Nickel spilled into the Ambarnaïa river and the surrounding land after the rupture of the pillars supporting the building .

In a conference call Tuesday evening, Norilsk Nickel denied contamination of Lake Piassino and the risk of pollution of the Kara Sea. “The distance between Piassino Lake and the Kara Sea is more than 5000 kilometers. Our samples taken from Lake Piassino are 0.0 ”, said Sergei Diatchenko, first vice-president of the group. “The majority (of pollution) can be cleaned,” he said, adding that the cleaning should be completed before the cold weather arrives.

Greenpeace Russia director Vladimir Chouprov said on Tuesday that his teams have not yet been able to access the site due to containment measures against the coronavirus. “If 10,000 tonnes or more (of fuel reaches the lake) – it’s a disaster. Until now, we have not been given the figures, “he regrets, warning about the” harmful consequences “if this pollution then reaches the Kara Sea.

The thawing of permafrost – or permafrost -, a consequence of global warming, is a possible cause of this disaster. Norilsk Nickel officials admitted on Tuesday that the state of permafrost has not been monitored so far, and that a full infrastructure audit will be carried out.

Worst accident in the region

The accident is considered by environmental organizations and the authorities to be the worst oil accident in the Russian Arctic, a fragile region where mining, gas and oil are plentiful and pollution has been a growing problem since the Soviet era.

The boss and majority shareholder of Norilsk Nickel, the billionaire Vladimir Potanine, promised last week that his group would bear the entire cost of the depollution operations, which he estimated at 10 billion rubles (128 million euros). Russia has also ordered a full audit of the risky infrastructure built on the permafrost.

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