Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 5:59 pm Post subject: Polluted Orange snow falls in Russia
Russian Officials Say Orange Snow Poses No Threat
04:58 PM, February 2nd 2007
by Playfuls Team
Russian authorities said Friday that yellow and orange snow that fell in a number of Siberian villages posed no health hazards, though the cause was unclear, with officials blaming mud from Kazakhstan and ecologists blaming fertilizer factories.
"According to preliminary results, no chemically dangerous, toxic or radioactive substances have been found," Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry, told Interfax.
The snow fell January 31, and details of its appearance in three West Siberian regions - the industrial Omsk, Tomsk and Tyumen regions - were made public Friday after residents of the remote areas contacted health officials.
No health problems had been reported by any of the roughly 30,000 residents of the 50 villages covered by the 100-kilometre long, 600- metre wide belt of precipitate.
Beltsov said the discolouration was due to the presence of mud and sand typical of the Kazakh steppe. The affected regions are located just north of the Central Asian nation, and about 2,000 kilometres south-east of Moscow.
Beltsov denied locals' reports that the snow was oil and had an musty odor to it.
Lyudmila Voronina, director of the West Siberian Meteorology Centre, said, however, that tests showed the snow carried nitric elements that showed the snow was "of a natural character and even has a characteristic unpleasant odour."
Voronina speculated the snow may have gotten its color from Aral Sea mud.
Viktor Chipchai, a regional Emergency Situations Ministry official, said the snow had tested positive for high concentrations of metals, including iron. He asserted that the levels were not harmful to humans.
Other area authorities with the emergency ministry and Russia's Consumer Protection Agency also noted that while the level of certain metals was four times higher than it should be, that did not pose a threat to humans.
"The layer of polluted snow is only 1 millimetre and upon melting in the spring the metal will go into the soil. Besides, iron is harmless," Pyotr Uskov of the consumer agency said.
Mikhail Faleyev, director of the emergency ministry's early- warning department, said the snow was similar to incidents in 2000 and 2002 when pollutants from a Kazakh metals plant had snowed down on Russia.
However, Faleyev maintained that both then and now no toxic materials were contained in the snow.
Independent ecologists, however, were less confident about the snow's harmless nature.
"It's most likely pollution from oil refineries or fertilizer plants," Alexei Yablokov, leader of Russia's Green Party and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.
"The effects of these contaminants are long-term and could be seen in a year or two - or even five," he added.
Tyumen region prosecutors, meanwhile, said they were following the developments but did not see any reason to enter the investigation.
"There aren't any companies in the Tyumen region that could be guilty for this precipitate," Viktor Russkikh, the Tyumen prosecutor general, told Interfax.