Published On: Thu, Jun 4th, 2020

Russia declares state of emergency after 20,000-tonne oil spill from power plant | World | News

The spill occurred at a power plant near the city of Norilsk on Friday, the Guardian reports. Since then, the leaked oil has drifted 7.5 miles from the site of the spill, with pictures showing that large stretches of the Ambarnaya river have turned red as a result.

And state media have reported that overall, the leak has contaminated an area 135 square miles in size.

Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects at Russian’s World Wildlife Fund (WWF) branch, said that the spill would have “catastrophic consequences,” according to CNN.

Verkhovets added: “We are taking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds, and poisoned animals.”

The power plant is owned by a division of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and one of the largest producers of nickel.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has criticised the head of the plant – Sergei Lipin – for failing to report the spill initially.

He asked Mr Lipin why the government only found out about the spill two days after it had occurred.

Putin continued: “Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Is there something wrong with you?” according to Radio Free Europe.

This is in reference to Putin only finding out about the spill after Alexander Uss, governor of the Krasnoyarsk region where the city and plant are located, found “alarming information” on social media.

READ MORE: Putin warning: New US sanctions could threaten Russia’s grip on Europe

It means that the regional governor could then ask for aid from a reserve fund.

Despite the apparent delay in reporting the spill, a statement from the Russian wing of the WWF claims that oil booms – temporary floating barriers to stem the spread of the oil – have been put in place before the spill could reach the Pyasino lake.

But Aleksey Knizhnikov, Head of the Programme for Business Environmental Responsibility at WWF Russia, warned that toxic chemicals from the spill are likely to continue on past the booms and pollute the lake.

He said in a statement: “The successful containment doesn’t mean that toxic elements [have not] got into the water of the lake.

“Unfortunately the most poisonous elements of diesel fuel are aromatic compounds like benzol, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, which will massively mix with the water and it is impossible to collect them using oil booms.”

The oil spill is far from the first time that the Norilsk Nickel plant has been criticised for its environmental impacts.

In 2010, a report by Norwegian environmental organisation Bellona into the plant states: “The mining and metallurgical plants that are currently part of Norilsk Nickel MMC have been emitting millions of tons of toxic substances into the atmosphere for almost 75 years, thus imposing unacceptable damage to the environment, and most importantly to the health of people who live in these regions.

And in 2016, the plant admitted that is was responsible for turning a river in the Russian Arctic red due to an incident, having initially denied that it was responsible after images showing the pollution surfaced.

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