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Mystery Surrounds Ecological Disaster in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, October 8, 2020 @ 07:00 AM (EST)
Source: Russia Beyond


After weeks of distressing images of dead marine animals washed up along the Pacific coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, environmentalists, locals and the authorities still can’t agree on what caused the ecological disaster. In addition to the mollusks, octopuses and even seals that have been found dead on Khalaktyr beach, local scientists diving the area have reported that the majority of bottom-dwelling organisms are dead.

In early September, reports noted the water turned a sickly yellow color, and as the first images of dead creatures began showing up on social media, a group of local surfers complained of nausea, retina burns, and swollen ligaments. The reports were initially dismissed by local authorities, but mounting public pressure has forced the country’s Investigative Committee to launch a full enquiry.

One of the most likely explanations is a leak of toxic substances from the Kozelsk landfill, which is supported by satellite images posted by the Russian branch of Greenpeace as well as samples taken by the organization’s experts from a nearby river that showed elevated levels of phenol and petroleum. Arsenic—20 tons or more—and mercury are reportedly stored at the waste dump, and local media stories of pesticide leaks go back to the mid-2000s.

Some locals have also suggested that a leak of rocket fuel from the nearby Radygino rocket firing range is to blame for the contamination. While the Russian military says no exercises involving the use of heavy military equipment have been undertaken at the facility since June, several hundred tons of rocket fuel are known to be stored there.

Vasily Yablokov, head of Greenpeace Climate Project in Russia, has called for immediate action to contain the pollution, prevent further leaks, and begin the cleanup. “The unique nature of Kamchatka, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, is under threat.”
 

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