Staunton, August 7 – Russian officials have laid off “about 90 percent” of the staff at a chemical waste dump containing about two million tons of toxic chemicals only six kilometers from St. Petersburg, thus making the “chemical Chernobyl” various outlets have warned about almost a certainty, according to Bellona.ru.
Indeed, the environmental watchdog organization says, there are now only seven people actually working to maintain and guard the dump, the result of staff cutbacks driven by what officials say are budgetary stringencies and the lack of any new income for the site since it lost its license and was declared full.
Officially, “only” 47 of the 59 people who had been working there were dismissed, but Bellona.ru sources say that the actual number still working is seven, not twelve. As a result, there are no managers, no energy specialists, no chemists, no ecologists, and no people familiar with the reprocessing of chemical wastes.
As a result, the organization says, toxic chemicals are leaching into the groundwater and affecting the Neva River to such an extent that even if people don’t drink the water, they will be at risk if they wash in it. Moreover, there is a great risk that the mix of chemicals may generate explosions that would lead to even greater contamination of the air.
This is a time bomb, it continues, one not as dramatic as Chernobyl, but with the potential to harm almost as many people almost as seriously.
Anatoly Pyatov, the former head of the transportation department of the site, says that “such an extravagant decision [as the laying off of most of the workers there] in earlier years would have been simply unthinkable. Our specialists could not even imagine such a thing in their worst nightmares.”
Bellona.ru places much of the responsibility for these actions not on the budget but on Valery Matveyev, a military officer with close ties to St. Petersburg’s deputy governor, who took over the management of the site and made these decisions as well as others without a clear understanding of the risks they entail.
Local courts have ruled against his failure to act according to existing Russian law, but he remains in place and his policies continue. But even these court decisions are inadequate, Bellona.ru says, because they neither stop these criminal actions nor bring to justice those responsible.
The problem, however, is now so serious that some officials are beginning to get worried: Aleksandr Drozdenko, the governor of Leningrad Region, told Bellona.ru that “the Krasny Bor facility is a time bomb” that could explode at any time. He proposes a new site where the storage of such chemicals would be safer.”
But Bellona.ru says that the situation has now gone “beyond the point of return” and points out that “the Krasny Bor drama unlike Chernobyl has been developing ‘quietly.’” Consequently, officials think they can sweep it under the rug and that they won’t be held responsible for the disasters already occurring.