SAROV, November 26./TASS/. The threat of environmental disaster in Usolye-Sibirskoye, Irkutsk region, was averted, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, warning however, that it would too soon to relax.
“Most dangerous objects were localized and liquidated, and, the most important thing, the spread of the toxic spot was averted, and chemicals were prevented from getting into water,” Putin said, stressing that an ecological disaster had been averted.
“We must by no means relax,” the president told a session looking into work in progress to deal with the damage to the environment in the Irkutsk region town.
Putin said that he had seen in the files presented to him that barriers put up by Rosatom state corporation were cutting off the toxic spot from the river bed. “This is very close, way too close, it is a very serious situation,” Putin stressed.
“Owing to the taken steps, an immediate threat to the life and health of the citizens living in that area has been removed. I hope so. According to all the documents, the reports, I can see that this is so,” the president added.
Usolyekhimprom, once the biggest chemical facility east of the Ural Mountains, became a source of environmental danger since its closure in 2005. Since 2018, a state of emergency has been in place in the nearby town of Usolye-Sibirskoye, home to more than 76,000 inhabitants. A large hotspot of mercury pollution, resulting after the 1998 liquidation of the mercury electrolysis production facility, is located at the industrial site where reservoirs with chemical substances are stored and the structures, soil, and the ground waters are saturated with toxins. The closest residential buildings are within 2 kilometers of the Usolyekhimprom plant. The town is located 77 km away from the regional administrative center of Irkutsk, on the left bank of the Angara River that drains out of Lake Baikal.