Natural factors behind seawater pollution in Kamchatka, Russia

MOSCOW. Oct 23 (Interfax) - The Russian Investigative Committee views a theory suggesting natural causes behind the pollution of sea waters of Kamchatka's coast as a priority.


"The results of the latest biochemical tests did not find any signs of toxic poisoning in the people who sought medical aid. No heavy metals were found in the samples of water, soil, and marine life, either. The earlier detected increase in the concentration of oil hydrocarbons and phenol in seawater is not critical and has been observed in waters of the Avacha Gulf since 1970," Russian Investigative Committee spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko said.

The investigation has established that "there were no leaks of petroleum products from vessels, ships, and submarines of the Navy that entered the Avacha Gulf," she said.

"All this confirms the theory indicating natural causes of the pollution, including as a result of plankton blooms," Petrenko said.

Khalaktyrsky Beach of Avacha Gulf in Kamchatka

Death of animals

The recent death of animals in Kamchatka had natural causes, the theory that it was a man made disaster has been ruled out, Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dmitry Kobylkin said.

"No, it's already absolutely clear that it wasn't a manmade disaster. Excluding manmade factors, it could have been an earthquake, volcanoes, or some manifestation such as a rupture,  in actual fact, there were lots of theories at the very beginning, and by excluding different elements, including those checked in the samples that were taken in water, in the soil in the rivers, we ourselves, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources [Rosprirodnadzor] concluded that it was not a man made accident, that we didn't find a spill of either petroleum products or any other serious concentrations that could have caused the mass death of marine life," Kobylkin said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 (VGTRK) television channel.

Following consultations with scientists, "we came to the conclusion that there was a natural factor," he said.

Mass deaths of animals like the ones that have occurred in Kamchatka cannot be ruled out in the future, and therefore, it is necessary to determine the cause of this natural phenomenon along with possible solutions to the problem, Kobylkin said.

"I'm always interested in the cause. You know, they say that something that has happened once may never occur again, and something that has happened twice will definitely happen for a third time. I want to understand if this is consistent, if we'll see it again, maybe next year, and if we can counter it," Kobylkin said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 (VGTRK) television channel.

The damage from the deaths of the animals cannot be counted, he said.

"It's probably impossible to count the damage now. Firstly, it's clear that we can't seek compensation from anyone, secondly, everything that happened there is the life of the ocean; it's a natural thing, and there's no damage as such. It can't be said that fish have disappeared there or that sea urchins have stopped appearing there or that aquatic organisms have suddenly disappeared. These things have been restored, and the ocean will gradually restore everything," Kobylkin said.

In late September, local residents and surfers began complaining about pollution in Avacha Gulf and on Khalaktyrsky Beach in southeastern Kamchatka. The unusual color of the seawater and the mass deaths of sea animals, including octopuses, sea urchins, and sea stars, were reported, and complaints were made about sore throats and retinal burns after swimming.

After a check, water specialists found excessive amounts of phosphates (10.8 times the normal level), iron (7.2), phenols (6.9), and ammonium (6.2). Svetlana Radionova, the head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor), said her agency had found no excessive levels in the samples taken from Avacha Gulf.

Source: Interfax, Moscow October 23 

For more information, see the link below with the video (in Russan) on Kamchatka ecological disaster of  5 October TV Channel One, Rossiya 1: