Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Russian River Turns Red After Suspected Chemical Spill

Popular
Russian River Turns Red After Suspected Chemical Spill

The Daldykan river near the industrial city of Norilsk in Russia turned an unnatural bright red on Tuesday, with some locals pointing fingers at industrial waste stemming from a nearby nickel plant.

Russian authorities are investigating the situation and are assessing any possible environmental damage. Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said Wednesday that a broken pipeline leaking "an unidentified chemical" from the Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant owned by Norilsk Nickel might be the culprit, CNN reported.

Norilsk Nickel is the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium. The company has denied any wrongdoing, as the Guardian reported from state news agency RIA Novosti.

The "color of the river today doesn't differ from its usual condition," the company said, but added that production has been temporarily reduced as the situation is being monitored.

The Daldykan river near the industrial city of Norilsk in Russia turned an unnatural bright red on Tuesday, with some locals pointing fingers at industrial waste stemming from a nearby nickel plant.

The Siberian Times reported that Norilsk Nickel has since provided photos of the river with a normal color to local news agency Tayga Info. However, as the Siberian Times noted, there is reason to suspect that the company did not provide a photo of the same stretch of river.

"As far as we know, the color of the river is today no different from normal," a company source said.

Norilsk, located in the Arctic Circle, is the world's northernmost city and is covered with snow for up to 270 days of the year. The city not only has an odious history as a Siberian slave labor camp, it's one of the world's most polluted places, as TIME magazine described:

"Home to the world's largest heavy metal smelting complex, more than 4 million tons of cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, selenium and zinc are released into the air every year. Air samples exceed the maximum allowance for both copper and nickel, and mortality from respiratory diseases is much higher than in Russia as a whole."

"Within 30 miles (48 km) of the nickel smelter there's not a single living tree," Blacksmith Institute president Richard Fuller told TIME. "It's just a wasteland."

According to NASA, the city has some of the largest nickel, copper and palladium deposits on Earth, meaning that mining and smelting are major industries and has led directly to severe pollution, acid rain and smog.

"By some estimates, 1 percent of the entire global emissions of sulfur dioxide comes from this one city," NASA stated. "Heavy metal pollution near Norilsk is so severe that it is now economically feasible to mine the soil, which has been polluted so severely that it has economic grades of platinum and palladium."

Norilsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia. The city is a major hub for mining and smelting ore.Flickr

The river has changed red in the past, Denis Koshevoi, a Ph.D candidate at the Vernadsky Institute for Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry who researches pollution in the area, explained to the Guardian. He said that Norilsk Nickel pumps chemical solutions from Nadezhda to a nearby tailings dam via pipes, and that the factory also pumps metal concentrates from ore mills to Nadezhda.

"Periodically there are accidents when these pipes break and the solutions spill and get into the Daldykan—that's why it changes color," Koshevoi said.

The water does not pose an immediate risk to residents as Norilsk's water supply comes from other sources, the mayor's office said.

Startled residents have posted photos of the crimson river on social media.

"A leak into the river from the Nadezhda factory," Norilsk resident Yekaterina Basalyga wrote on Instagram, according to a Guardian translation. "You get scared when you see this. And people are still gathering mushrooms and berries."

Four more years will be enough to cement in place Trump's anti-environmental policies and to make sure it's too late to really change course. Enrique Meseguer / Pixabay

By Bill McKibben

To understand the planetary importance of this autumn's presidential election, check the calendar. Voting ends on November 3—and by a fluke of timing, on the morning of November 4 the United States is scheduled to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

President Trump announced that we would abrogate our Paris commitments during a Rose Garden speech in 2017. But under the terms of the accords, it takes three years to formalize the withdrawal. So on Election Day it won't be just Americans watching: The people of the world will see whether the country that has poured more carbon into the atmosphere than any other over the course of history will become the only country that refuses to cooperate in the one international effort to do something about the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A woman marks down her vote on a ballot for the Democratic presidential primary election at a polling place on Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Herndon, Virginia. Samuel Corum / Getty Images

By Oliver Milman

The climate crisis is set to be a significant factor in a U.S. presidential election for the first time, with new polling showing a clear majority of American voters want decisive action to deal with the threats posed by global heating.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A black bear cub climbs a tree at Tongass National Forest in Alaska. sarkophoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

America's largest national forest, Tongass National Forest in Alaska, will be opened up to logging and road construction after the Trump administration finalizes its plans to open up the forest on Friday, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests in front of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on September 25, 2020. Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP / Getty Images

By Ruby Russell and Ajit Niranjan

Hamstrung by coronavirus lockdowns, frustrated school strikers have spent months staging digital protests against world leaders failing to act urgently on climate change.

Read More Show Less

This fall brings three new environmental movies. David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet | Official Trailer

This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch