The environmental group described the damage as “catastrophic”, and the concentration of pollutants in nearby waters has already exceeded permitted levels by tens of thousands of times, according to Russia’s environmental agency Rosprirodnadzor.
Power plant employees originally tried to contain the spill themselves and did not report the incident to emergency services for two days, Emergency Situations Minister Evgeny Zinichev said during a meeting Wednesday chaired by Putin and shown on national television.
“So what, we’re going to learn about emergencies on social media now? Are you okay?” Putin said, resenting Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Uss and directors of the Norilsk-Taimyr energy company, which operates the station, for a delayed response after local authorities learned of the spill from social media.
The Investigative Committee, Russia’s highest law enforcement body, said on Tuesday that a criminal investigation had been launched into 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel spilled into the Norilsk River after an “unexplained decompression” of the tank.
Nornickel, a parent of the energy company, said the foundation of the reservoir may have sunk due to the thawing of permafrost, highlighting the dangers that are increasingly warming temperatures for Arctic infrastructure and ecosystems, Russia’s state news agency TASS reported.
“Now we can assume … that due to the abnormally mild summer temperatures recorded in recent years, the permafrost could melt and the pillars under the platform could sink,” Nornickel chief operating officer Sergei Dyachenko was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.
North Asia, especially above the Arctic Circle in Siberia, has seen the most above normal temperatures on the planet so far by 2020. For the first four months of the year, the region has seen temperatures more than 4 degrees Celsius above normal on average,
The Arctic region is warming, on average, twice as fast as the rest of the planet, as a result of global warming, scientists say.
Local authorities said the spill could take several weeks to begin cleaning because the region lacks expertise in using such amounts of fuel, and the river is not navigable and there are no roads surrounding it. Additional groups of experts were deployed from other regions after the state of emergency.
“The incident has led to catastrophic consequences and we will see the consequences for years to come,” said Sergei Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects at Russia’s WWF branch. “We’re talking about dead fish, polluted bird droppings and poisoned animals.”