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The Siberian Times

Pure waters of Lake Baikal in danger from 6.5 million tons of toxic waste

By The Siberian Times reporter
05 August 2019

Immediate public audit of a high risk waste storage in Russia is urged.

Nearly 6.5 million tons of poisonous solid and liquid waste were accumulated during 50 years of the mill’s operation

The risk that the world’s biggest storage of clear water can be forever poisoned by chlorine and lignin slurry is not just real but high, warn Russian and British experts. 

Lake Baikal’s ecosystem is under threat from massive storage of chemical waste left on its south bank after the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill was closed in 2013. 

Nearly 6.5 million tons of poisonous solid and liquid waste were accumulated during 50 years of the mill’s operation.

After President Vladimir Putin ordered the plant to be shut the waste was left next to pristine waters of the world’s deepest and oldest lake, containing 20% of the planet’s unfrozen freshwater. 

The waste is kept inside at least 13 large quarries, or ponds, built in three clusters next to each other and in close proximity to the lake’s shore. 

Three large waste ponds can be seen on the Google Maps images below. Three more are situated to the east, and the rest are visible in a staircase up the hillside.

Pure waters of Lake Baikal in danger from 6.5 million tons of toxic waste 


Pure waters of Lake Baikal in danger from 6.5 million tons of toxic waste 


Pure waters of Lake Baikal in danger from 6.5 million tons of toxic waste 

Pictures of the waste storages by the Google maps


The ponds were supposed to be a temporary solution when they were built - as packs of cards one above the other - in a mudflow hazard area, in fact, right on the way of a potential mud slide. 

Even if to exclude the mudflow threat, the danger of flooding was always high, and a near-critical situation almost happened in 1971, when water went close to 5 metres above the norm mark.

As some Russian experts say, it was pure luck that recent incessant rains that flooded Irkutsk region and destroyed hundreds of homes did not overflow the toxic waste ponds. 

There was real concern that this could happen. 

Academic Dave Petley from the University of Sheffield in the UK slammed the arrangement as a 'horrifying example of a high risk waste storage facility’

‘The risks at this waste storage site are clearly unacceptably high, and the consequences of a major failure into Lake Baikal at Baikalsk would be truly catastrophic. And it is worth noting that these are not the only waste storage ponds in this area’, said the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation on his blog, calling for an immediate assessment of the ponds' integtrity. 

Checks made at the end of July showed no sign of leaks or threats to integrity of the waste pounds, Irkutsk Ministry of emergency said. 

Yet experts insist time has come to seek different solution to toxic waste problem. 

The disused plant is a bomb ready to explode, and the countdown has already started, said Yevgeny Simonov, Russian co-ordinator of Rivers Without Borders. 

https://www.google.co.uk/search?source=hp&ei=tSRIXYmED8iLk74Pv5SwqA8&q=dave+petley+baikal&oq=dave+petley+baikal&gs_l=psy-ab.3...761.5560..5768...0.0..0.112.1381.17j1......0....1..gws-wiz.....0..0j0i22i30j33i160j33i21.P5hoXfLH-Vk&ved=0ahUKEwjJsvqQ4evjAhXIxcQBHT8KDPUQ4dUDCAk&uact=5


https://www.google.co.uk/search?source=hp&ei=tSRIXYmED8iLk74Pv5SwqA8&q=dave+petley+baikal&oq=dave+petley+baikal&gs_l=psy-ab.3...761.5560..5768...0.0..0.112.1381.17j1......0....1..gws-wiz.....0..0j0i22i30j33i160j33i21.P5hoXfLH-Vk&ved=0ahUKEwjJsvqQ4evjAhXIxcQBHT8KDPUQ4dUDCAk&uact=5


https://www.google.co.uk/search?source=hp&ei=tSRIXYmED8iLk74Pv5SwqA8&q=dave+petley+baikal&oq=dave+petley+baikal&gs_l=psy-ab.3...761.5560..5768...0.0..0.112.1381.17j1......0....1..gws-wiz.....0..0j0i22i30j33i160j33i21.P5hoXfLH-Vk&ved=0ahUKEwjJsvqQ4evjAhXIxcQBHT8KDPUQ4dUDCAk&uact=5

Even if to exclude the mudflow threat, the danger of flooding was always high, and a near-critical situation almost happened in 1971, when water went close to 5 metres above the norm mark. Pictures from the 1971 flood, and of the waste ponds from mid-1970s


Several years ago state budget money was allocated to JSC Rusgeology which was assigned with a task to find a solution to the waste problem. 

In March this year several Russian newspapers reported that a new project for liquidating the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill waste should be ready by September 2019.

Comments (5)

Why oh why has such a beautiful area of ecological, spiritual and unique bio diversity been sullied. It is sadly understandable that toxins need to be dumped somewhere on the planet but why pick Baikal, could you not research on a better alternative?
La Loba, Glenarm
03/10/2019 05:11
2
0
This is kapitalism.
Akis Adalopoylos, Kalamata/Greece
06/09/2019 15:31
2
0
Baikal is a world treasure as a scientific, environmental and cultural resource. Any damage to it will affect future generations, damage the environment, and reduce the biodiversity of the planet in ways that cannot be measured in dollars. Please protect it for your children and grandchildren. 3254
Gordon Cooper, Bremerton, WA USA
30/08/2019 10:12
3
0
Lake Baikal and its surrounding area is of tremendous importance as natural and spiritual ressource as well as recreation area for the wider region and our globe. Hoping for - and expecting - a sustainable solution for protection.
Johannes Binder, Vienna, Austria
07/08/2019 23:49
6
1
Please protect Lake Baikal and thank you to everyone involved in doing so from every perspective and knowledge base that can be brought to bear on this situation.
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
07/08/2019 02:15
5
0
1

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