On Friday, a fuel reservoir at a power plant owned by Nornikel collapsed. The incident was transformed into a catastrophe when 20.000 tones of diesel fuel dispersed into the Ambarnaya River that is heading towards the Arctic Ocean. It occurred 3000 kilometres northeast of Moscow, near the city of Norilsk, in Siberia and inside of what is considered to be the Arctic Circle.
The company didn’t act accordingly
The company didn’t report the incident to the officials. The governor of Krasnoyarsk, the region where the plant is located, only found out about the unfortunate event two days later, on Sunday, and form social media. Nonetheless, Nornikel claims the subsidiary operating the plant, NTEK, reported it in a “timely and proper” manner.
President Putin doesn’t seem to agree with the metallurgic company statement and reprimanded Sergei Lipin, the chief of NTEK, during a video conference broadcasted on television. President rhetorically asked Lipin “why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Are you quite healthy over there?”
As a consequence, Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency in the area, and extra resources were called to join the effort to clean the diesel fuel from the river.
Volunteers and military are most likely to participate too, just like they did in the last event of the kind, back in 2007, when 5000 tons of oil were spilled into the Black sea.
Cleaning the fuel raises problems
The current incident is way worst than the one in 2007. Physical barriers were installed to keep the fuel from advancing towards the ocean. The process to clean it proves to be very difficult and way too toxic. The river is to shallow and that makes using barges impossible. Also, there are no roads that would facilitate the reach of the spill.
Alexei Knizhnikov of the World Wildlife Fund’s Russian branch was talking about letting the fuel evaporate since it would be more toxic to be cleaned up. Being lighter than oil, diesel fuel is more likely to evaporate than sink into the depths of the waters.
Knizhnikov also estimated that the damages will be close to 1 billion rubles ($14.6 million), due to the effect the fuel spill will have on fish and other resources.
Another proposal, to burn the fuel was dismissed by Dmitry Kobylkin, Russia’s environment minister because it would be too risky. “It’s a very difficult situation. I can’t imagine burning so much fuel in an Arctic territory … such a huge bonfire over such an area will be a big problem,” said Kobylkin.