The oil spill occurred on Friday, May 29, in Norilsk and was caused by the collapse of a fuel reservoir at a power plant. The owner of the plant, Nornickel, did not report the spill, and Putin found out about it from social media. The president spoke to the head of the power plant, Sergei Lipin, to find out why the spill went unreported.
“Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Are you quite healthy over there?”
The company argued that the spill was reported in a timely manner, but the governor of the region where the power plant was located told Putin he did not learn of the spill until Sunday, when the news appeared on social media. Putin declared a state of emergency to bring in more resources for the cleanup.
Environmental group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported the spill after confirmation from its sources. WWF member Alexei Knizhnikov said that the spill was massive and that it would have been difficult for Nornickel to cover up the incident.
An investigative committee reported has launched three separate investigations to look into the spill. The committee deals with large-scale crimes and has already detained one employee from the power plant.
The fuel spill, which took place on the Ambarnaya river, was larger than the 2007 Kerch oil spill. That spill released 5,000 tons of oil into the Black Sea strait, while the Ambarnava river totaled 20,000 tons of fuel spilled. Unfortunately, the river will reportedly be hard to clean as the water is too shallow for barges to enter, and the location is too remote.
Several experts have suggested burning the fuel off the water. However, Russia’s environment minister, Dmitry Kobylkin, said that trying to burn off the fuel would prove dangerous, calling it a “very difficult situation.”
“I can’t imagine burning so much fuel in an Arctic territory … such a huge bonfire over such an area will be a big problem.”
Knizhnikov told reporters that the fuel spill should be easier to clean up than the Kerch oil spill, which required the help of hundreds of volunteers in addition to military forces, because fuel evaporates off the surface of water instead of sinking. However, fuel is more toxic to clean up than oil.