Sep 06, 2011

Russian Monitors Confirm Toxic Spill to Mzymta River Near Site of 2014 Winter Olympics

Spilled drilling waste produced miles of white foam covering river, shore of Black Sea

Russia’s environmental monitoring service confirmed last Wednesday that the Mzymta River was recently polluted by drilling waste, according to the Environment News Service.

The 18.5 mile-long spill produced white foam that covered the river and the shore of the Black Sea at Adler, peaking up to 20 in. high on the Mzymta. The river is a source of drinking water for the Adler district in Sochi, host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

After being alerted by local residents, the group Environmental Watch on North Caucasus (EWNC) inspected the source of the pollution about 20 miles up the river from the Black Sea, where drilling waste was flowing into a tributary of the Mzymta. The source is near a portal to the road and rail line from Adler to Krasnaya Polyana, said EWNC head Andrei Rudomakha.

"The entire riverbed of the Kesha River is clogged with drilling waste here," said Rudomakha. "The flow of the waste apparently originates from a large container for tunnel drilling waste, which was completely full and overflowing. Apparently an accident … in the tunnel resulted in a release of a large amount of waste and water, which has overfilled the provided container.”

The Russian weather and environmental monitoring service Roshydromet confirmed that its tests of the Mzymta River showed "high levels of pollution." The water contained three times the permitted levels of nitrogen nitrite and oil products, four times the allowed level of phosphates, and 13 times the permitted level of synthetic surfactants. The agency did not name a culprit behind the pollution.

EWNC said in a statement last Wednesday that these test results were not consistent with claims by an official with Rosprirodnadzor official Amirkhan Amirkhanov, who told Russian media that the foam is "not a threat to the population of Sochi."

Russian Railways, developer of the Adler-Krasnaya Polyana road and rail line, has been accused by Rudomakha of “an infinite number of environmental crimes” in connection with the preparations for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Russian Railways has made no comment yet on the toxic spill.