Russia Admits it was Responsible for World's Largest Arctic Oil Spill

Roughly 21,000 tons of oil poured into local rivers and the surrounding ground.
Trevor English

Alexander Chupriyan, First Deputy Minister of Emergencies of Russia, said ""In the history of mankind, such a quantity of liquid, diesel fuel has never flowed out. We caught it already in the Arctic zone," according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

The spill in the arctic earlier this year marks one of the most significant petroleum-related natural disasters in history. Roughly 21,000 tons of oil leaked into the region due to a failed storage tank. 

All of the holding tanks were under the ownership of Nornickel, a Russian metals company, and the spill itself had a peculiar effect on the region's water. Located outside of the arctic city of Norilsk, as Interesting Engineering's Fabienne Lang reported earlier this year, "Striking images of two rivers, the Ambarnaya and Daldykan, taken from above look like they belong in a murder mystery movie. Instead of clear water running between their banks, you see blood-red veins of water swooshing through."


Why the tank collapsed

While the investigation into the failure of the large oil tank is still underway, authorities now believe that flaws in the construction of the tank contributed to the disaster. 

The tank's foundation was constructed of several large concrete piles or concrete columns that are supposed to cut through the unstable ground and rest on bedrock. Investigators found that several of the piles for the tank that were supposed to be resting on bedrock were in fact shorter than they were designed to be and were likely resting on permafrost. The local region had a particularly warm winter this last year, which could've caused the foundation to weaken considerably.

As for the spill itself, Russian authorities claim that all of the oil has been isolated to the arctic region and local microflora in the surrounding waters is already adapting to break down the oil. 

The Russian government earlier this year slapped Nornickel with a $2 billion fine for the spill, something the company is currently contesting.

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