Arctic river will take decades to recover from fuel spill: Russian official

Russia’s Arctic city of Norilsk. The country’s state fishing agency said on Tuesday a river near the city would need decades to recover after 20,000 tonnes of oil products spilled out of a power station last week. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)
Russia’s state fishing agency said on Tuesday an Arctic river would need decades to recover after 20,000 tonnes of oil products spilled out of a power station in the industrial city of Norilsk last week.

A fuel tank at the power station lost pressure on May 29 and leaked out fuel and lubricants, causing a fire and spreading across an area of 350 square metres, the Investigative Committee, a law enforcement agency, said.

The spill leaked into the river Ambarnaya, something that Dmitry Klokov, a spokesman for the Rosrybolovstvo state fishing agency, described as an ecological catastrophe.

An expanse of crimson water could be seen stretching from shore to shore down a river and an offshoot of the river in aerial footage posted online by the RIA news agency.

“It can already be said now that it will take decades for the restoration of the ecological balance of the affected Norilo-Pyasinsky water system,” Klokov was quoted as saying.

Norilsk, a remote city of 180,000 people situated 300 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle, is built around Norilsk Nickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer.

The company said it was doing all it could to clear up the spill and that it had brought in specialists from Moscow who have sectioned off the affected part of the river to stop the oil products spreading further.

Those specialists expect to be able to draw off the fuel from the river in 10 to 14 days, spokeswoman Tatyana Yegorova said, adding that it was too early to assess the damage.

The city of Norilsk, which foreigners require permission to visit, has been dogged by a bad reputation for pollution, although the company says it has mounted a big push to improve the city’s environment and surroundings.

Related stories around the North:

Canada: New “Frankenstein” shipping fuel could further pollute the Arctic, environmental groups say, Radio Canada International

Finland: Finland investigates oil leak risks from Baltic Sea shipwrecks, Yle News

Greenland/Denmark: Greenland and Denmark finalize cooperation agreement on marine pollution response, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: New guideline launched for Arctic-specific risk assessment in shipping, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland to restrict heavy fuel oil use in territorial waters, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Experts discuss plan to lift nuclear waste from Russian Arctic seabed, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Carnival Corporation ships switch to cleaner fuel on Arctic cruises, Radio Canada International

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