Seals and other sea creatures poisoned off the coast of eastern Russia

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Kamchatka Peninsula

Octopuses, seals and other marine wildlife have been poisoned off the coast of eastern Russia and their bodies are being washed up in parts of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The deaths are due to a toxic chemical contamination of the sea. Surfers have reported suffering from stinging eyes in the area and, in addition, water samples showed that levels of phenol and petroleum products were above permitted levels. Inspectors are checking two military testing sites because they believe that the source of contamination comes from these areas.

Kamchatka Peninsula

View of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky’s harbour from Avacha Bay, with Mount Koryasky rising in the background. Photo: Wikipedia under CC license.

Comment: at this time, I don’t have any more information on the story. The internet does not run the story to the best of my knowledge. Russia has a history of contaminating the environment. The most notorious example being Chernobyl. Many cases relate to the early Soviet union when safeguarding the environment was perhaps considered a hindrance to commercial development and industrialisation. The same argument, incidentally, is being run in China today. They argue that they have to catch up with the rest of the world and therefore have a right to pollute the environment (as the West did) while they develop their industries. They import coal from Australia for example and have no desire to change their ways at present.

Wikipedia tells us that water pollution is a serious problem in Russia. Shockingly, 50% of all water in Russia is polluted while 35% of surface water is polluted. Only 8% of wastewater is fully treated before being returned to waterways. The country has inefficient and outdated water treatment facilities. They lack funding. This causes heavy pollution. This in turn has resulted in waterborne diseases spreading. In 1995 there was an outbreak of cholera from the Moskva River.

Further, industrial chemical waste is often dumped into rivers. This includes chemicals such as hydrogen sulphide which is linked to the death of fish in large numbers in the Black and Caspian Seas. At one time Lake Baikal was polluted but there has been a cleanup. Military nuclear waste has been dumped unsafely. It was dumped in the Sea of Japan until 1993. Nuclear weapons testing also pollutes the environment. As for air pollution, over 200 cities in Russia exceed pollution limits. As there is more and more vehicular traffic on the roads pollution rises. Air pollution declined when industrial production decreased but this is counteracted by vehicle pollution. The experts estimate that air pollution contributes to 17% of childhood and 10% of adult diseases. They believe that 41% of respiratory 16% of endocrine diseases are caused by pollution in Russia. All countries are guilty of air pollution.

Update, October 9, 2020. The Times newspaper can now provide some more information about this pollution. It was due to a leak from a storage dump of toxic chemicals on Russia’s Pacific coast. It is believed that the spillage has wiped out 95% of marine life on the seabed in that area. A possible pollutant is rocket fuel from a military testing site.

As mentioned in the article, two surfers suffered damage to their corneas after swimming in the sea. Thousands of sea creatures have washed up on the beaches. Greenpeace Russia has described it as an “ecological catastrophe”. There was an initial attempt to cover it up by officials as they claimed that there was no evidence of man-made substances in the water. A subsequent investigation found that water in Avacha Bay contained oil components. A criminal investigation has been launched. Russia’s ecology ministry disclosed that there were high levels of phosphate, phenol and iron in the sea.

It is believed that the leak came from storage tanks adjacent to streams and that the storage tanks contained rocket fuel about 6 miles from the sea.