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Barriers Aren't Stopping the Oil. Now, Arctic Ocean Is in Peril

Booms put in place to contain spill in northern Siberia last month haven't been working well
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2020 10:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – Fuel is flowing toward the Arctic Ocean in Russia's far north following a major diesel spill last month. Some 150,000 barrels of diesel—nearly half as much fuel as leaked in the Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska in 1989—were released near the mining city of Norilsk in northern Siberia after a storage tank sank into thawing permafrost and burst on May 29, reports the New York Times. The government is investigating the spill, which deposited fuel into a river, where floating barriers failed to contain it. Diesel has now reached other rivers, turning them red, and a finger lake that extends toward the Arctic Ocean, says Aleksandr Uss, governor of the Krasnoyarsk region. "Naturally, there are fish there and a good natural environment. But it's impossible to predict how it will hold up now," he says, per the Times.

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Calling the disaster one of the largest petroleum spills in modern Russian history, the World Wildlife Fund has sounded the alarm over "poisoned animals." But the situation could grow worse as the lake, Pyasino, flows into the Pyasino River, which passes through a nature reserve before draining into the Kara Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean). Uss says it "should be possible" to prevent the fuel from reaching the river, though the BBC reports plenty of diluted oil has been seen beyond booms meant to stop its spread. Hundreds of workers are tasked with cleaning up the mess, which led to the arrest of the director of the power plant in charge of the tank, per Deutsche Welle. It's run by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, the world's leading nickel and palladium producer, which has vowed to cover at least $146 million in cleanup costs. (Read more oil spill stories.)

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