Russia declared a state of emergency, after a power plant fuel leak in its Arctic region caused 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil to escape into a local river.
The Ambarnaya river, into which the oil has been discharged, is part of a network that flows into the environmentally sensitive Arctic Ocean.
Emergency measures were announced within Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Region, located in the vast and sparsely populated Siberian peninsula. The power plant is located near the Region’s Norilsk city, around 3000 km northeast of Moscow.
The thermoelectric power plant at Norilsk is built on permafrost, which has weakened over the years owing to climate change. This caused the pillars that supported the plant’s fuel tank to sink, leading to a loss of containment.
Boom obstacles were placed in the river, but they were unable to contain the oil because of shallow waters. The state of emergency declared on Wednesday would bring in extra forces and federal resources for the clean-up efforts.
Environmentalists have said the river would be difficult to clean, given its shallow waters and remote location, as well as the magnitude of the spill.
Greenpeace said damages to the Arctic waterways could be over $76 million, and has compared the incident to Alaska’s 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. Its estimate does not include atmospheric damage due to greenhouse gases and soil pollution.
Russian minister of natural resources opposed setting the vast quantity of oil afire and recommended diluting the layer with reagents. Experts have told that the clean-up effort could take between 5-10 years.