MOSCOW 

At least four people were arrested in Russia after a major fuel leak in environmentally sensitive Arctic Circle region.

On May 29, over 20,000 tons of diesel spilled from a tank of a power station, operated by Nornikel company — the world’s leading producer of nickel and palladium — in the world’s northernmost city of Norilsk.

As a result, 180,000 square meters of soil and waterways were contaminated, the cure of the leak effects is estimated in hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to preliminary data, the tank cracked as a result of soil subsidence.

Regulatory agency Rostekhnadzor said that in 2017, it found the damaged reservoir and demanded to restore it, but the request was ignored.

Following the incident, the police arrested the foreman of the crew that was on the watch that day, and later in the week, the station’s three-person management.

In addition, Norilsk’s Mayor Rinat Ahmetchin was charged for negligence on Thursday. Investigators claimed he knew about the scale of the incident, qualified by ecologists as “an environmental disaster”, but did not take any steps to deal with the emergency situation.

Meanwhile, the law enforcement bodies have not questioned Nornikel’s top management, although the company has been implicated in numerous ecologic scandals, including large-scale hazardous substances emission in 2016 and another fuel leak in 2020.

As for today, about 500 specialists and 120 units of equipment are trying to contain the consequences of the accident.

Petroleum products are being collected from soil and water, floating barriers are used to prevent further spread on the rivers, while drones control the situation from the air.

The tank was dismantled, while another three storage reservoirs located near it are being checked.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the state of emergency in the region and instructed to use the best available technology and the most environmentally friendly method to clean up the territories.

He also ordered to analyze the state of similar facilities across Russia and carry out inspections if necessary, with the involvement of experts of the Emergency Ministry and law enforcement bodies.

The experts say the environment recovery will last for decades, because northern ecosystems return back to normal very slowly.

The diesel leak in Norilsk is the second largest environmental disaster after the oil leak in Komi in 1994 when 94,000 tons of crude oil spilled due to corrosion of the pipeline.

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