Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declared a local state of emergency 3 June after 20,000 tons of oil leaked into rivers from a power plant in the Arctic north of the country.
The contamination happened 29 May when the “oil products” leaked from a tank in an industrial plant operated by Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company, a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and one of the largest producers of nickel, platinum and copper.
Putin said in a 3 June meeting with officials that “The accident took place at the industrial site of the Nadezhdinski Metallurgical Plant, and part of the spilled petrochemicals, a considerable amount actually, seeped into the Ambarnaya River”.
A statement on the Norilsk Nickel said that the spill happened in a remote area and that no local community had been impacted. “The accident was caused by a sudden sinking of supporting posts in the basement of the storage tank” according to the company, and emergency teams “immediately arrived (at) the site to start clean up works”.
According to data from Russia’s regulatory agency for natural resources, Rosprirodnadzor, after the accident bodies of water more than 20 kilometers from the site contained concentrations of petroleum products that were tens of thousands of times higher than the maximum permissible limit.
Greenpeace Russia has called the incident one of the largest fuel spills in the history of the Arctic, drawing comparisons to the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989.
“Using the environment ministry's methodology for assessing the environmental damage to water bodies, it may amount to 6 billion rubles (more than $76 Million USD,” said Greenpeace Russia’s head of energy, Vladimir Chuprov.
Satellite images after the leak showed crimson water in the Ambarnaya river, and nearby residents posted videos on social media of the polluted water.
2016 Norilsk Nickel Incident
In September 2016 Norilsk Nickel admitted that a spill at one of its plants had caused the Daldykin River, near Norilsk in Siberia, to turn scarlet-red, blaming heavy rains for flooding over a filtration dam.
The city of Norilsk has been described as the most polluted in Russia. A 2013 report by international anti-pollution non-profit the Blacksmith Institute listed Norilsk in the world’s “Top Ten Toxic Threats in 2013: Cleanup, Progress, and Ongoing Challenges,” as one of the 10 most contaminated sites in the world, based on industry information, public sources, and scientific literature.
Most of the Norilsk’s 170,000 residents work for the Moscow-headquartered company, the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium, and one of the largest producers of copper.