Arctic Rivers Turn red After 20,000 Tons of Oil Leaked From a Russian Power Station

Doug Williams
 20,000-tonne oil spill has contaminated an area of 135 square miles inside the Arctic Circle. Credit:
20,000-tonne oil spill has contaminated an area of 135 square miles inside the Arctic Circle. Credit:

A Russian storage tank holding thousands of tons of diesel oil collapsed due to the melting of the permafrost on which it stood.

The oil, which spilled into the Ambarnaya River and the surrounding area was from a thermal power plant that is a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, the largest producer of nickel and palladium in the world.

The oil made its way to Lake Pyasino and could possibly pollute the Pyasina river and eventually flow into the Arctic Ocean.

Vasily Ryabinin, an employee of Rosprirodnadzor, the state environmental agency, heard of the oil spill and rushed to the river to take pictures. He and his employer attempted to get into the plant but were denied entry by the local police.

When he watched the local news, he learned that the company had put out a statement that the spill was quickly contained which he knew was not true.

He complained to his employer, but the agency had decided to go along with the lie and told him to stop investigating. Having had enough of the hypocrisy, he took it upon himself to speak to the public about what he saw.

When news agency CNN heard of the situation, they attempted to contact Rosprirodnadzor with no response. According to an article published on their website, CNN then contacted Nornickel who stated that the oil cleanup was being “guided by the official data of Rosprirodnadzor and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.”

Extent of the spill as seen by Sentinel-2 satellite




Moscow environmentalist Georgy Kavanosyan had seen the videos and agreed with Ryabinin. Using math and weight formulas to support his theories, he claimed the amount of oil that was lost could not possibly have been contained so quickly. According to Kavanosyan, “They only caught the very tail of this spill.”

News reports claimed that the spill is surface only and isn’t affecting the lake and marine life while Kavanosyan believes that the water and mud are being damaged not to mention the effects on marine life.

He decided to go to the lake and see for himself. As he entered the town with a cameraman, he pretended to be visiting friends but would sneak out after dark to go to the lake. A sample taken from the water found levels of contamination 2.5 times higher than is legally allowable.

Satellite images shared from over the area show the true scale of the crisis, with the diesel stretching up the river for miles
Satellite images shared from over the area show the true scale of the crisis, with the diesel stretching up the river for miles

Other journalists who weren’t so sneaky were pressured by the Nornickel guards watching the area but were able to find an illegal pump sending wastewater right into the ground. Nornickel claims the oil spill was caused by melting permafrost. They did admit to the illegal dumping and removed the local staff.

The members of Greenpeace in Russia also attempted to access Lake Pyasin but were chased away by the local police while an official from Moscow who was trying to get samples of the water back to the city for testing was detained at the airport, and the samples were confiscated. Apparently the entire town is run by Nornickel who doesn’t want the truth to be told.

Neither Kavanosyan nor Ryabinin believe the melting permafrost is responsible for the leakage. Aware of the fact that Siberians know how to build on ice and can prop up the permafrost if needed, the men claim lack of proper maintenance.

The locals, who are afraid to let their children play outdoors when the air smells of gas, also believe the plant is long overdue for an inspection.

According to the BBC, when President Vladimir Putin heard of the spill, he became so angry at the power plant’s delay in reporting the incident that he had Vyacheslav Starostin, the power plant’s director, arrested, and the Russian Investigative Committee filed criminal charges citing negligence and pollution.

The company has pledged about one hundred and forty-six million dollars to clean up the spill, but the booms they are using have been ineffective.

Another Article From Us: Thawing Permafrost May Contain Previously Unknown Deadly Diseases

As for Vasily Ryabinin, he no longer has a job and must uproot his family to another town for being a whistleblower—poor thanks for a man who couldn’t stand by and watch environmental destruction by uncaring corporations.


fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival