No water to drink, no fish to catch: the environmental crime on the Kama

No water to drink, no fish to catch: the environmental crime on the Kama

4 December 2020, 15:25Society
In the near future the Kama River may become unsuitable for drinking water intake and fish farming.

On the largest confluent of the Volga - an ecological disaster: the Department of Rosprirodnadzor in the Perm Territory and the Bereznikovskaya interdistrict environmental prosecutor's office are investigating the large-scale pollution of the Kama by a soda plant.

Irina Mishina

Хвойные деревья в районе сброса отходов химического производства содового завода.
Вода в районе сброса хлоридов АО "БСЗ".

Recently, ecologists of the All-Russian public organization "Green Patrol", together with the Bereznikovskaya interdistrict environmental prosecutor's office, conducted a study of the site of pollution. The experts saw an eerie picture: toxic waste was poured out in large quantities around the place of dumping of liquid industrial waste in the city of Berezniki in the Kama. The water in the river was rusty. The needles on the pines that grew on the coast were of the same strange color.

Забор воды в районе экологической катастрофы показал превышение допустимых норм загрязнения более, чем в 10 раз.

“We have recorded: pouring out of alkaline liquid waste through the waste pipe; three streams from under the northern dam of the sludge pond to the place of water intake for drinking water in the area of the Tolych River near the town of Berezniki. Considering the fact that production waste is discharged into the floodplain of the Tolych River, before the place where it flows into the river. Kamu, the mentioned pipe cannot have permits and discharge limits. Thus, we are talking about an environmental crime”, - Dmitry Levashov, an expert from the Green Patrol public organization , told NI.

Заключения экспертов были направлены в Управление Роспотребнадзора по Пермскому краю.

“When we arrived at the site, we saw that liquid was flowing out of the container for liquid waste of production - the sludge collector. We measured the acidity level of the water. It corresponded to the acidity level of the sludge, that is, the chemical waste that was in the storage tank. We took water samples for a more accurate analysis. Before that, in July, there were signals about a large-scale release of chlorides into the Toloch River, a tributary of the Kama. No action has been taken since then. Waste emissions occurred near the drinking water intake and sturgeon spawning grounds”, - said Yaroslav Knyazev, an employee of the analytical laboratory “Center for Environmental Control ”.

The Kama is the left and largest tributary of the Volga, its length is 1805 km. It is here, in the Kama, that rare fish species are found: sturgeon, sterlet, salmon, sturgeon, bream, carp, crucian carp, pike perch, pike, burbot, catfish, grayling and others. Rainbow trout has been launched in the Kama, and here is the pre-spawning zone for a rare salmon species - beluga. This is a rare, endangered species that is under state protection. According to ecologists, after such a massive pollution of the Kama, spawning of beluga in these places will stop. “It is also dangerous that the release took place at the point of the drinking water intake. Now the maximum permissible coefficient at the point of water intake has been exceeded by more than 10 times. The contaminated zone stretches for tens of kilometers. More than 40 million people consume water from this section of the water intake. It is difficult to say how the use of contaminated water will affect their condition", - Dmitry Levashov, an expert from the Green Patrol public organization , told Novye Izvestia.

Public and environmental organizations have long raised the issue of industrial pollution in the Volga-Kama basin. During one of the "direct lines" with the President on April 14, 2019, a representative of Astrakhan asked V. Putin to regulate the system of hydraulic structures in the Volga-Kama basin. After listening to the opinion of the ecologist, Putin agreed that there is a problem of pollution of river beds and set the task of cleaning up the reservoirs. “These issues require special attention from the regional and federal authorities”, - the president said. In Volgograd, a special meeting was even held on the problem of preserving the Volga-Kama basin with his participation.

Место сброса химических отходов в Каму Березниковским содовым заводом.

The meetings have passed, the tasks have been set, the problems remain...

Виновник экологической катастрофы на Каме - АО "БСЗ" - вину не признает и собирается реконструировать резервуар для токсичных отходов через 10 лет.

Who dumps toxic chlorides into drinking water intake and sturgeon spawning sites? The sludge pond, from which the waste of chemical production is discharged into the Kama, belongs to the Bereznikovsky soda plant. It, in turn, is part of the Bashkir Soda Plant JSC. You will be surprised, but this commercial structure has recently approached the head of the Primorsky Territory Dmitry Makhonin with a proposal... to support the implementation of the environmental program, which is designed for 10 years. Top managers of the Bereznikovsky soda plant want to invest over 12 billion rubles in this project, writes The most surprising thing is that the administration of the region supports this project instead of liquidating environmental crime here and now.

The situation is strange, paradoxical and in some ways even comical. “When we ask representatives of BSC:“ What kind of pipe is this, what is pouring out of it?”, - we are told in response: “And this is not us, these are underground waters. But the facts are stubborn things: laboratory hydrological studies show that the water is contaminated with chlorides from the sludge pond. Nobody from the management of the soda plant gives official comments, they only build global projects”, - explains Dmitry Levashov, an expert from the Green Patrol public organization.

It took a lot of effort to get at least some commentary on what was happening from the General Director of Bashkir Soda Company JSC (BSC) and the General Director of Bereznikovsky Soda Plant JSC Eduard Davydov. According to him, the whole problem is - don't be surprised! - in the environmental legislation, which came into force on January 1, 2007. JSC BSC and Bereznikovsky Soda Plant did not fit into these rigid frameworks. “The Bereznyakovsky soda plant is 140 years old, the operating sludge storage facility was commissioned in 1970, that is, it turns 50 this year. At that time, environmental standards were completely different. The new Water Code, adopted in 2007, does not provide for the placement of such facilities near the Kama, - admits the general director of JSC BSC Eduard Davydov. - The Berezniki soda plant has become hostage to new legislative initiatives, tightening of legislation in the field of environmental management. This is all correct, but we need to react. And so we decided to completely reclaim the sludge pond by 2030. We will build a setup in which we will filter out the solid part. We will use this hard part to strengthen the roads. We will evaporate the clarified part to obtain salt for raw materials and an anti-icing agent”, - said Eduard Davydov.

The plans are, of course, bold. But a logical question arises: why should it take so long to eliminate the toxic sludge pond that clogs the river? Indeed, in the 10 years that Mr. Davydov devotes to reclamation of the sludge pond, all rare species of fish will most likely disappear due to pollution, we will lose the only place for spawning of sturgeon beluga in Russia. And the clogged places of drinking water intake will turn the inhabitants of the Perm Territory into sick people. And the river itself will become completely unsuitable for drinking water intake. How much the nature of these places will change due to the descent of chlorides into the Kama, one can imagine, but do not want to.

It is very strange that this whole situation is developing with the stubborn silence of numerous federal structures in charge of the Kama reservoir. “Let's start with the fact that the Kama reservoir is in federal ownership. It is monitored by the Regional Ministry of Ecology of the Perm Territory, as well as the Department of Rosprirodnadzor for the Perm Territory. But, as they say, seven nannies have a child without an eye”, - said Dmitry Levashov, an expert at the Green Patrol NGO.

The Kama Basin Water Administration, a territorial body of the Federal Agency for Water Resources, is also responsible for the state of the Kama. Its functions include, in particular, water protection activities - the development and implementation of schemes for the integrated use and protection of water bodies, state monitoring of water bodies.

But all these structures, since July, have been tacitly watching how Kama is systematically polluted by the Bashkir Soda Company JSC and the Bereznikovsky Soda Plant. Numerous conferences and presidential orders regarding the protection of the Kama-Volga basin have remained, alas, good wishes. The Bashkir Soda Company JSC continues to litter the Kama, at the same time building projects for the coming 10th anniversary and begging regional authorities for billions for "environmental needs".

However, the latest news from the Perm Territory is encouraging. The Rosprirodnadzor Administration for the Perm Territory and the Bereznikovskaya Interdistrict Environmental Prosecutor's Office began an investigation into the facts of dumping waste from the chemical production of the sludge pond of the Bereznikovskiy Soda Plant in Kama. After assessing the amount of damage, the perpetrators of an environmental crime will face penalties. So for now, the soda plant, which is waiting for the allocation of federal billions, will probably have to spend money.

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