Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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."

A dugong, also called a sea cow, swims with golden pilot jacks near Marsa Alam, Egypt, Red Sea. Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Jan. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Andrew Rosenberg

The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Melting ice forms a lake on free-floating ice jammed into the Ilulissat Icefjord during unseasonably warm weather on July 30, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.

Read More Show Less
Probiotic rich foods. bit245 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Ana Maldonado-Contreras

Takeaways

  • Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
  • Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
  • New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.

You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Michael Mann photo inset by Joshua Yospyn.

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Read More Show Less