Environmental groups in Transnistria, a breakaway territory located between the Dniester River and the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine, are voicing concerns over chemical pollutants flowing from Ukraine’s Ivano-Frankivsk province into the trans-boundary Dniester, which supplies water to both countries.
Extraction of potassium salts in the province’s Kalush district has destroyed the ecological balance in the area, according to Ivan Ignatiev, head of the non-governmental organization Ecospectr.
The Dombrov mine in the Kalush district is the world’s only open pit potash mine.The mine site covers an area of 64 hectares and is 140 meters deep. Work was stopped there in 2007, and today the mine is swamped with water.
“In the open pit potash mine, there is about 13 million cubic meters of liquid which contains 350 grams [of potassium salts] in every liter,” Ignatiev said.
Ukrainian authorities in 2010 declared the area of the Kalush city and the villages of Kropivnik and Sivka-Kaluska an extraordinary environmental zone.
“Today the lifespan of the tailings dam and of the Dombrov mine has expired, and intensive precipitation may cause their destruction,” Ignatiev said. “Unexpected flooding of potassium salts inevitably will destroy nearby industrial facilities and houses and pollute the Dniester River.”
If the dam breaks down, more than 2 million cubic meters of chemicals will flow into the Sivka River, a tributary of the Dniester.
Another facility in the Kalush district, which was used to store chemical byproduct hexachlorobenzene (HCB), was also damaged in 2010.
“In total, there are about 12,000 tons of HCB in the territory of the facility,” Ignatiev said. “As a result, air, soil and aquifers in the basin of the Limnitsa River, which empties into the Dniester, are polluted. This is a trans-boundary danger, as the Dniester River is the main source of drinking water supply in many cities and villages in Ukraine, Moldova and Transnistria.”
In December 2005, 30 kilograms of calcium hypochlorite were dumped into the Sivka River from a fertilizer factory in the Kalush district.
Moldova’s then-Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Constantin Mihailescu noted that this was a large quantity for the 70-kilometer-long Sivka River to absorb. Laboratory results showed that chlorine in the river's water had more than doubled to 700 milligrams per liter.