Science

Russian mayor charged over spill response

Russian mayor charged over spill response”

The fuel leaked when a storage tank collapsed; prosecutors say that melting permafrost likely caused the collapse.

A major diesel spill from a power plant in Siberia has reached a fragile freshwater lake that leads to the Arctic Ocean, according to regional officials.

Even though Norilsk Nickel said it had deployed hundreds of workers to assist with the cleanup, floating barriers failed to prevent the oil from spreading to Lake Pyasino, multiple news outlets reported.

He added that the focus for the moment is to stop the spilled diesel fuel from reaching Pyasina River, which flows into the Kara Sea in the greater Arctic Ocean - an area that has already been drastically affected by climate change.

The disaster occurred on May 29, when a holding tank at a thermal power plant near the industrial city of Norilsk spilled at least 20,000 tons of diesel fuel into the soil, two rivers, and a downstream lake.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency in the region. The oil threatens to contaminate local waterways and the sensitive Arctic ecosystem.

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"The company considers this measure to be unjustifiably harsh", Norilsk Nickel said in a statement to AFP, citing vice-president Nikolai Utkin.

The accident is the largest spill ever to hit the Arctic, say environmentalists.

Norilsk Nickel has a subpar safety record, which speaks to how the incident may have happened. The company has been accused of using global warming as an excuse for its inaction.

It has acknowledged it did not specifically monitor the condition of permafrost at its sites in the past and said it would do a full audit shortly. A 2018 study shows that a third of Arctic infrastructure sits on ground that could thaw out by mid-century.

Norilsk Nickel is owned by Russia's richest man, Vladimir Potanin. One billion Russian rubles runs at about $14.5 million, reports Gizmodo.

The power plant's director has been taken into custody and charged with causing environmental damage but questions are being asked about why it took several days before local officials mounted a proper response. An investigation is ongoing Monday JUne 8, 2020, into the alleged crime, that could bring five years in prison if Starostin is found guilty.

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