A huge spill of diesel has polluted a large freshwater lake oil in Russia’s Arctic north, with a risk that it could spread into the Arctic Ocean according to a senior Russian official
Emergency services are trying to contain the oil spill, which started leaking from a collapsed fuel tank on the 29th of May, has now travelled about 20km (12 miles) north of Norilsk.
Environmentalists and officials say that it is the worst accident of its kind in modern times in Russia’s Arctic region.
So far about 21,000 tonnes of diesel have contaminated the Ambarnaya river and surrounding areas of land.
Investigators believe that the storage tank near Norilsk sank due to its supports being weakened as a result of melting permafrost. The Arctic has had several weeks of unusually warm weather, which is thought to be a symptom of climate change.
This comes after Global lockdowns, have lowered emissions but longer-term changes needed, say scientists, as 2020 could be the hottest year on record.
Alexander Uss, the governor of the Krasnoyarsk region said:
“The fuel has got into Lake Pyasino,”
“This is a beautiful lake about 70km [45 miles] long. Naturally, it has both fish and a good biosphere,” the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
“Now it’s important to prevent it from getting into the Pyasina river, which flows north. That should be possible.”
Clean-up crews have removed about 23,000 cubic metres (812,000 cubic feet) of contaminated soil, Ria Novosti news reports.
Vasily Yablokov of Greenpeace Russia has said that the pollution “will have a negative effect on the water resources, on the animals that drink that water, on the plants growing on the banks”.
Greenpeace has compared the Russian oil spill it to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster that took place in Alaska.
Prosecutors in Russia have ordered that the appropriate checks be performed at “particularly dangerous installations” built on top of permafrost.
Delays over reporting of the collapse of the oil tank has angered President Vladimir Putin, as well as Vyacheslav Starostin, the power plant’s director, who has now been taken into police custody as a result of the Russian Investigative Committee launching a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence.
Permafrost in the term is used for ground that is frozen continuously for longer than two years. Around 55% of Russia’s territory, predominantly Siberia, is home to its main oil and gas fields that are build of top of permafrost.
The Arctic Council, an international forum including Russia, released a 2017 report that warned that due to climate change causing dramatic melting of ice, the foundations of the permafrost regions have become weakened, so much so, that could no longer support the loads they have done as recently as in the 1980s.
Yulia Gumenyuk, the deputy environment minister for the region of Krasnoyarsk, has said that booms had failed to stop the oil spreading downriver so far.
“We can see a large concentration of diluted oil products beyond the booms,” she said.