Why Has This Russian River Suddenly Turned Crimson?

September 8, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

red river
Photo credit: screenshot from ShantiUniverse video

Locals point to discharge from a nearby nickel processing plant.

Just a few days ago, Russia’s Daldykan River was a cool blue-green. Now, blood red waters flow through Norilsk, the world’s northernmost city.

The city is home to some of the largest nickel deposits in the world, along with the Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant, which processes nickel concentrate. According to The Siberian Times, locals allege that discharge from the plant has turned the river red, and this is not the first time it’s happened.

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Denis Koshevoi, a PhD candidate at the Vernadsky Institute for Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, who studies pollution in the area, tells The Guardian: “Periodically there are accidents when these pipes break and the solutions spill and get into the Daldykan — that’s why it changes colour.”

A spokesperson for Norilsk Nickel, the owner of the plant, said the company “does not confirm a leak of emergency discharge of industrial waste into the Daldykan River which could have affected its state,” The Siberian Times reports.

In a press release, the company posted a photo of the river, said to have been taken on September 7, 2016, noting that “the waters show the natural tone; the river and its mainstream are in regular condition, which goes against the information about any color changes due to an alleged case of large-scale river pollution.” However, it is unclear whether the company’s photo is of the same stretch of river as the images circulating online, which show the discolored water.

If plant discharge is to blame, the pollution would not pose an immediate threat to Norilsk residents, as the Daldykan river is not connected to the public water supply. Still, The Independent reports that scientists are advising against the use of the potentially toxic river waters for livestock and irrigation.


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