By Irina Slav
Some 20,000 tons of fuel and lubricants spilled into an Arctic river near the industrial city of Norilsk and it will take decades for the river, Ambarnaya, to recover, the Russian state fishing authorities said.
The spill was the result of damage in a storage tank at a Norilsk Nickel facility near the river, the company said. The damage, which unsealed the hermetically sealed tank, itself followed a breakage in the supports of the tank that had “served their purpose with no fail for more than 30 years,” the metals giant also said.
At the moment, the company is collecting the fuel from the river, but it has already spilled into another river as well, according to Rosprirodnadzor, the country’s federal environmental authority. Norilsk Nickel said it had collected some 100 tons of diesel fuel.
“It can already be said now that it will take decades for the restoration of the ecological balance of the affected Norilo-Pyasinsky water system,” said the head of the federal fishing agency, Rosribolov. Dmitry Klokov added that the event is nothing short of an ecological catastrophe.
The head of Rosprirodnadzor, Svetlana Radionova, however, noted that the security at the Norilsk Nickel facility—a thermal power plant—had initially refused to let in inspectors sent to investigate the spill. She added that the inspectors had started their work despite lack of direct access to the site of the tank breakage and a fire that also occurred post-spill after a car passing by caught fire. The damage to the rivers and the soil in the area have yet to be calculated.
The situation is being treated as an emergency situation, with one local nonprofit official noting that any spill of oil and oil productions into a body of water that is over 5,000 tons must be treated as a federal-level emergency, which has not happened with the Norilsk incident.