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The abandoned chemicals plant that could trigger ‘an environmental disaster akin to Chernobyl’

By The Siberian Times reporter
25 July 2019

The Usolyekhimprom facility, disused due to bankruptcy in 2017, is a ‘toxic catastrophe waiting to happen’.

'We need to act now otherwise we will have an ‘ecological Chernobyl’.'

The chilling warning about the dangers at this abandoned plant was sounded by Svetlana Radionova, head of state environment watchdog Rosprirodnadzor.

'This is essentially the territory of an environmental catastrophe. We need to act now otherwise we will have an ‘ecological Chernobyl’,’ she said. 

Pictures here show the plant in Irkutsk region which manufactured chlorine and other chemicals on a 600 hectare site and began work in the Stalin era in 1933. 

Radionova warned of ‘huge’ quantities of mercury and oil waster that could gush into the Angara River, which flows out of Lake Baikal. 

Usolyekhimprom


Usolyekhimprom


Usolyekhimprom


Usolyekhimprom


Usolyekhimprom


Usolyekhimprom

Pictures here show the plant in Irkutsk region which manufactured chlorine and other chemicals on a 600 hectare site and began work in the Stalin era in 1933. 

'This is a huge, chemically dangerous enterprise which is in a half-destroyed state,’ she warned.

'Its negligent owners exhausted its final resources and chucked it.’

'No one knows what’s there,’ she said.

She had personally witnessed a huge amount of mercury residue plus tanks of dangerous, unknown chemicals, at the plant which stopped production in 2010.

The mercury needs to be ‘de-mercurised’, she said.

A mercury electrolysis department covered an area of more than one hectare. 

Her warning about a second Chernobyl appears apocalyptical.

The meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986 was the world’s worst nuclear accident and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate as it spewed clouds of nuclear material across Europe.

Svetlna Radionova at Usolyekhimprom


Svetlna Radionova at Usolyekhimprom

Svetlana Radionova visits Usolyekhimprom.

But the Russian official is plainly deeply concerned. 

Radionova told how a collection of tanks containing unspecified chemically dangerous substances were stored in the factory premises. 

Some are pressurised while no-one knows what exactly is inside.

'They pumped oil refinery wastes into boreholes which once had saline solutions in them,’ she told newspaper Izvestia.

‘The Angara River flows nearby, and it’s crystal clear that if such a borehole exploded, the river would be all polluted.’

She complained that it is not the only case of owners of the abandoned plant neglecting industrial infrastructure.

‘Usolyekhimprom is the most vivid example of such ugly behaviour,’ she said.

Inside the plant


Inside the plant


Inside the plant


Inside the plant


Inside the plant

’All of this, including the soil, groundwater and underground water, is impregnated with highly toxic organochlorine pollutants and heavy metals.'

She wants the government to act to ‘recultivate’ the plant. 

The Ministry of Natural Resources was working on the cost of eliminating the ecological damage, she said.

The ministry’s spokeswoman Natalia Khlopunova said: 'The checks of Rosprirodnadzor at this facility were conducted on the instructions of the Minister, Dmitry Kobylkin.”

Some remedial work had been done already.

‘The findings of this review will be analysed to decide on the timing, cost and scope of work,’ she said. 

Irkutsk regional natural resources minister Andrey Kryuchkov said the ‘elimination’ of pollution here was ‘one of the priority issues in ensuring the environmental safety of residents of the Irkutsk region’.

But he hit back at likening the threat to Chernobyl. 

The Usoliekhimprom enterprise comprises  more than 200 industrial facilities.

There are some 140 workshops - the mercury electrolysis facility which halted work in 1998  is only one of them - around 60 auxiliary buildings and structures, a railway track with a total length of over 20 kilometres, surface and underground utilities and collectors, about 50 kilometres long.

Kryuchkov said: ’All of this, including the soil, groundwater and underground water, is impregnated with highly toxic organochlorine pollutants and heavy metals. 

'But even this does not give serious scientists the right to make incorrect comparisons between Usoliekhimprom and Chernobyl.'

Comments (5)

We have about the same thing here it is called Hanford.... :(
Dixie, wenatchee washington USA
01/08/2019 07:17
0
0
Use it as a bombing range, same with Chernobyl. Out of sight, out of mind.
Frank Farkel, Brussels
28/07/2019 12:09
0
2
only 2 years since the plant went bankrupt? and in such a disarray. there must be much more behind the story.
MORAK Benedikjt, Moscow
27/07/2019 11:15
3
0
The EU in Brussels will be happy to pay for the cleaning up of this place and has the necessary funds available:

The Russian Embassy in Brussel just has to set up an urgent meeting!

As simple as that!

Kind regards
Rolf Zeijdel, Hanvec
25/07/2019 23:05
5
3
Perfect for filming SF or Horror movies. Looks like a ghost town
Kjo, St / Cro
25/07/2019 22:23
9
1
1

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