Oil Spill in Russia Could Pollute the Arctic Ocean after Large Lake
A catastrophic diesel oil spill in Russia has polluted a large freshwater lake in the region. Evidently, the huge spill poses a risk of spreading into the Arctic Ocean. Emergency response teams have been trying to contain the oil for a while, which had now traveled about 20 km (12 miles) north of Norilsk from a collapsed fuel tank.
According to environmentalists and officials, this is the worst accident of its contemporary times in Russia’s Arctic region.
The Worst Disaster
The oil leaking began on May 29. So far 21,000 tonnes have contaminated the Ambarnaya River and surrounding terrain.
Investigators are of the belief that the storage tank near Norilsk sank owing to the melting permafrost, which deteriorated its supporters. The Arctic has had weeks of strangely warm weather, which could be a result of global warming.
Permafrost is a term used for ground that is frozen continuously for two or more years. Nearly 55 percent of Russia’s terrain, predominantly Siberia, is permafrost and home to its main oils and gas fields. The power plant, where the accident occurred, is administered by Norilsk Nickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer.
This oil spill in Russia has polluted the Lake Pyasino, which serves as the basin for the Pyasina River that flows to the Kara Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. From the months of October to June, the river is usually ice-bound.
Governor of Krasnoyarsk region, Alexander Uss 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. Now it’s important to prevent it from getting into the Pyasina river, which flows north. That should be possible.
Reportedly, the clean-up teams have removed as much as 23,000 cubic meters of polluted soil.
Vasily Yablokov of Greenpeace Russia said,
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 this catastrophe to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.
Greenpeace director of Russia Vladimir Chuprov said that it would be a disaster if 10,000 tonnes or more of fuel had reached the lake. He criticized the authorities for not giving more information about the extent of the spill.
Russian prosecutors have ordered to check at “particularly dangerous installations” built on permafrost.
Delayed Reports Angered Putin
President Vladimir Putin has been furious as the reports were delayed over the collapse of the oil tank. He declared a state of emergency after 21,000 tonnes of diesel was leaked.
Meanwhile, the director of the power plant has been taken into custody. The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case over pollution and alleged negligence.
There was another oil spill in Russia on May 29th. 20,000 tons of oil spilled into the Artic Circle due to a collapsed storage tank. Russia declared a state of emergency yesterday following the spill. My heart is heavy. pic.twitter.com/YX7xuFKVYC
— Karlie Alexander (@KarlieAlexande7) June 5, 2020
A 2017 report to the Arctic Council, an international forum which includes Russia, warned that global warming and melting ice would weaken the foundations in permafrost regions and they would no longer be able to support loads of power plants as they did in the 1980s.
The oil spill has turned the long stretches of the Ambarnaya River crimson.
Norilsk Nickel revealed in a statement that the incident had been reported in a “timely and proper” way. The company has pledged to pay for the clean-up, which so far amounts up to $146 million.
Disastrous Environmental Impacts
Norilsk is famed as a pollution hotspot already, owing to the contamination from the industry that dominates the city. In 2016, Norilsk Nickel admitted that an accident at one of its plants was responsible for turning a nearby river red.
The recent oil spill has polluted the ground and waterways, activating a major clean-up effort. Officials in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk said that a high concentration of contaminated water had been discovered beyond floating barriers set in place to stop the fuel from spreading.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter that the US “stands ready to assist Russia to mitigate this environmental disaster and offer our technical expertise.”
Saddened to hear about the fuel spill in Norilsk, Russia. Despite our disagreements, the United States stands ready to assist Russia to mitigate this environmental disaster and offer our technical expertise.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 6, 2020
Looking toward the future, the company said that it will explore the possibility that this could happen again as permafrost continues to melt.
Currently, NTEC teams are conducting an inspection of emergency diesel fuel storage facilities, with special attention paid to assessing the risks of sinking soil under hazardous objects installed in permafrost.
If not controlled soon, the oil spill in Russia will go on contaminating the surrounding water sources and terrain, subsequently harming the ecosystems and its inhabitants. If oil reaches the Arctic Ocean, many marine species will perish, creating a huge imbalance in the ecosystem.
Although it is hoped that it would be soon under control, the damage done is irrevocable.