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Russian chemical waste site threatens Gulf of Finland

Dangerous oil and chemical waste is leaking from the Krasny Bor hazardous waste dump site into the Gulf of Finland. The site's director has called for a state of emergency to be declared, but his request has fallen on deaf ears as no one wants to take responsibility for the massive clean-up.

Kuvakaappaus Fotankan nettisivuilta jossa valokuva kaatopaikasta.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev promised three years ago that Krasny Bor’s chemical waste dump site would be closed, however, little has been done to that end. Screen shot from Russian Fontanka.ru Image: fontanka.ru

Two million tonnes of dangerous waste lies in an open pool surrounded by low retaining walls at Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill, just kilometres southeast of the Russian city of St Petersburg.

As the weather has quickly warmed up after mid-January's significant snow, toxic runoff from melting ice is now overflowing the site. Environmental activists say the contaminated water has already spread throughout the dump site and beyond, and is now leaking into the Neva River and the Gulf of Finland.

Officials deflect responsibility

The problem caused by the meltwater was already admitted last week by the landfill's director Viktor Kolyadov, who asked Krasny Bor municipal officials to declare a state of emergency.

As declaring a state of emergency would require officials to take action to help the landfill site solve the problem, they did not take action.

Removing the contaminated waters would take at least a month and it is not something that the site can do on its own.

In fact, the undertaking is so big that neither local nor regional officials are willing to accept any responsibility, say Russian media.

According to St Petersburg news site Fontanka.ru, the issue is being batted back and forth between officials while highly poisonous water seeps into the environment.

Gulf of Finland's worst contaminator

The Krasny Bor chemical dump is seen as one of the worst polluters of the Gulf of Finland. Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev promised three years ago that it would be closed quickly, but it appears that little has happened.

The dump site has raised concern in Finland, and authorities have offered help to deal with the hazardous clean-up.

Northwestern Russia’s largest hazardous waste site has been a dump for industrial oil and chemical waste since the 1970s.

Plans for a cleanup

In recent years many plans have been drawn up for cleaning up the site and building a proper facility for dealing with hazardous waste, which would cost 18 billion roubles (about 210 million euros).

At the end of last year, a regional court forbade Krasny Bor from accepting new waste. However, local environmentalists say that despite the ban, toxic waste has been taken to the site.

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