Scientists have repeatedly submitted documents to the state leaders that confirmed negative impact of BPPM on Lake Baikal. Therefore it is absolutely unclear why Mr. V. Putin said that the mill did not have any significant impact on the lake. The fact that BPPM was included in the list of entities of Irkutsk region that have negative environmental effect and are subject to the federal environmental monitoring of the RF Ministry of natural resources.
In this connection we would like to remind the words which Mr. V. Putin said in Tomsk on April 26, 2006: "If there is at least the slightest possibility to pollute Lake Baikal, we have to do everything to eliminate such danger and not only to minimize".
Even regardless of unlawfulness of sewage disposal, starting at minimum from November 2006 BPPM regularly violates standard environmental influence. Long-term observations of Rosprirodnadzor, Rosgidromet and Irkutsk Scientific Center of Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences give evidences of such violations. This data is also shown in annual reports of the Ministry of natural resources of the Russian Federation "On the status of Lake Baikal and its environmental protection measures" (in russian):
BPPM's wastewater volumes are comparable with the town of Ulan-Ude. That is why supporters of the mill-re-opening often say that it is not the major pollutant of Baikal. However we should consider the following two factors: Ulan-Ude is a town having population of hundreds of thousand of people, its wastewater goes to river Selenga and is filtrated and sediment on its way to Lake Baikal, while BPPM is located on the lakeshore and disposes its wastewater directly to Baikal.
Organ chlorine compounds represent major threat. In accordance with Siberian division of the Russian academy of sciences, concentration of chloride-ion in Baikal is hundred times less than in BPPM's wastewater. The period of water renewal in Southern Baikal is 200-300 years that is why scientists believe that organ chlorine compounds are accumulated in the lake buried in benthic sediments. Such polluted area achieves about 130 square kilometers.
Sample taking made by Greenpeace in Baikalsk (2003), Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2005) as well as observation results from the abovementioned reports of the RF Ministry of Natural Resources testify that the most dangerous toxics - dioxins - are found not only in the lake (phytoplankton and zooplankton) but in milk, butter and other locally produced food stuff in quantities 1-2 times exceeding safe dose.
It is important to understand that Baikal water purity is provided for by its unique self-purification system when one of the major roles is played by living objects - epischuras. Research data testifies that epischura concentration is constantly decreasing in the area covered by BPPM wastewater. It means that BPPM is eroding the natural system basis of Baikal water self-purification.
It is well-known that such substances as furfurans and dioxins degrades extremely slowly and accumulate in living objects. In the course of time it result in severe dyspraxia of immune and reproductive systems that is confirmed by Baikal seal observations and investigation of massive seal kill in late 1980-s and 1990-s. Though massive seal kill was caused mainly by carnivores plague, depression of natural disease resistance could be result of action of chemical substances found in fatty tissue of dead animals.
Traditionally the local population use fish, seal meat and fat that threaten many negative after-effects, in particular, increase of cancerous disease cases. In should be noted that statistics on cancerous diseases in Baikalsk "happen" to be classified data.
"We applied to Rospotrebnadzor of Irkutsk to obtain statistics on cancerous diseases in Baikalsk, - Mrs. Marina Rikhvanova, co-chairperson of the "Baikal Environmental Wave" NGO, said ? but received the answer that it was classified information. But without any data it is clear that the situation with cancerous diseases in the town is poor. Take a look at the local cemetery to see the length of life in Baikalsk. We were shocked by cynicism of justifying restarting of the mill with the interests of those people..."
Main components of BPPM emissions are dust particles, sulfurous oxide, reduced sulfur compounds (hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan compounds), terpenes, nitrogen oxides, carbon and chlorine oxides, phonic acids, methanol...
The RF Ministry of natural resources report "On the state of Lake Baikal and its environmental protection measures in 2008" stated that namely JSC Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill was responsible for up to 99% of atmospheric pollution of the southern part of Baikal.
In 2008 in the town of Baikalsk aggregate atmospheric emissions from stationary sources amounted to only 4.835 thousand tones per year (in 2007 - 5.557 thousand tones, in 2006 - 6.145 thousand tones), mainly from JSC BPPM (99.87%), out of which solid substances - 2.358 thousand tones (in 2007 - 2.624 thousand tones), gaseous and liquid discharges - 2,476 thousand tones (in 2007 - 2.933 thousand tones), including other gaseous liquid - 0.0183 thousand tones (in 2007 - 0.054 thousand tones); volatile organic compounds - 0.128 thousand tones (in 2007 - 0.206 thousand tones); nitrogen dioxide - 0.955 thousand tones (in 2007 - 1.216 thousand tones); sulfur dioxide - 1.365 thousand tones (in 2007 - 1.365 thousand tones); carbon dioxide - 0.012 thousand tones (in 2007 - 0.093 thousand tones).
Siberian division of the Russian academy of sciences performed annual measurements of pollutants concentration in snow pack. It was established that BPPM emissions cover the area of 300-400 sq. km. A kind of Baikalsk ?business card? became fetid methyl mercaptan emissions that can be smelled up to 70 km from the town. Researches performed by the Siberian institute of phytophysiology and phytochemistry on the SD of RAS showed that due to BPPM impact 13 sq. km of forest was dried up and 350 sq. km of forest was irreversibly minced in Baikal water protection area.
In the result of such researches BPPM affected zone of 300-400 sq. km was delineated. Significant discomfort for human being near BPPM is determined by high air concentration of fetid compounds of divalent sulfur - hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan and methyl disulphide. In populated area of Baikalsk concentration of methyl mercaptan exceeded the critical concentration up to 30 times.
In 2008 the Siberian institute of phytophysiology and phytochemistry on the SD of RAS prepared analytic memorandum for the Legislative assembly of Irkutsk region (letter No 15335 dated 23.04.2008) "On the state of taiga forest of Southern Baikal region within the area affected by air pollutants from Baikalsk PPM" showing that significant damage was caused to forests of the southern watersides of Lake Baikal in the result of human intervention. Due to BPPM impact 13 sq. km of forest was dried up and 350 sq. km of forest was irreversibly minced in Baikal water protection area. Atmospheric emissions from BPPM cause systemic disease of fir and partially cedar forests of the Southern Baikal region that is of chemical nature of damage and expressed in needles chlorosity, deterioration of reserved substances, decrease in woody tissue growth, disruption of reforestation processes. Scientists make the following conclusions:
- if pollution is kept at the current level, inveterate damages to fir forest by fungic infections will continue and in case of abrupt climatic variations (for instance, dry spell) such feebleness can pass into active phase;
- if ecological situation is stabilized (in case of BPPM liquidation or abrupt reduction of the mill air emissions) Khamar-Daman forests gradually get into more stable state;
- if BPPM atmospheric emissions start increasing that is namely planned by the mill administration in the nearest years, fir forest deterioration and dissimilation is unavoidable with 100% probability.
Negative impact of air emissions from BPPM on tree cover is also highlighted in researched performed by Forestry Institute of the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Another alarm fact is that Baikalsk PPM uses in its technology south Ural aluminum sulfates enriched with beryllium that is extremely dangerous for people: berylliosis is considered as autoimmune disease. In Southern Baikal region beryllium concentration exceeds background concentration by 8-10 times.
BPPM produced 120,000 - 150,000 tones of solid waste annually. The mill does not have own capacities to recover and utilize all volumes of such waste. Engagement of external specialized organizations does not allow solving this problem that is why significant part of this waste is buried on the lakeshore.
Official data controverts supporters of the mill re-opening stating that it will help to solve waste problem and eliminate the danger of slurry reservoirs where millions of tons of hazard substances are stored. According to the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources reports, it is obvious that in theory the mill is able to manage only half of waste produced annually. It also should be noted that in 2007 BPPM was able to process one sixth of the amount of newly produced waste (25 thousand tones out of 150 thousand tones).
Separate program not related to operation or shut down of the mill is required to solve this problem. In early 2000-s such program was developed - the program of BPPM conversion assuming establishing not only closed water rotation system and reducing of atmospheric emission volume but also slurry reservoir rehabilitation, rectification of polluted subsurface water dome under the industrial site. In 205 the program was "torpedoed" by LPK Continental Management under connivance of federal and local authorities.
Situation with accumulated waste is complicated by the fact that BPPM is located in high seismic activity area with possible grade 6-9 earthquakes on 12 grades MSK-64 scale.
In the result of seismic activity the possibility of chemical substance reservoirs undermining and slurry reservoir "leakage" can not be excluded.
During large magnitude earthquakes chemical agents and waste from damaged reservoirs could reach Baikal. During risk assessment it is necessary to consider a possibility of liquid chlorine leakage from reservoirs, breakage of storages of white and black-sulfite liquor, oil products, dipping acid as well as walling leak-in and inflow of accumulated waste from slurry reservoir sewage treatment into Lake Baikal.
Other situations are also possible which can result in similar consequences. For instance, technical state of slurry reservoirs, their filling level makes accidents possible not only during earthquakes and mud flows but in case of cloudburst and lingering rains which are often in this region. Extremely dangerous is interim dam failure of upper chart which can result in failure of the following seven charts containing about 5 million m2 of semi liquid (5%) slurry lignin. In case of such accident up to 250 th tons of organic matter can practically instantly run into Baikal, that equals the amount of airborne dust accumulated during 700 years of normal operation of the mill. Slurry lignin contains large volume of chlorine organic matter. Consequences of dam failure could be extremely severe.
Huge subsurface "lake" of toxics formed around BPPM during many years that according to scientists represents ecological time-delay bomb. This problem is well described in the RF Ministry of natural resources report "On the state of Lake Baikal and its environmental protection measures in 2007", p. 185-186:
"total dissolved solids in subsurface waters within BPPM industrial site amounted to 4.86 gr/dm3 (well 3002), in near-shore area of Lake Baikal ? 1.34 gr/dm3 (well 6-n) under background amount of 0.1-0.2 gr/dm3 (Fig.126.96.36.199). An increase was noted in values of other components in two and more times (colority up to 50 mgr/dm3, chemical oxygen demand up to 52 mgr/dm3, sodium soap up to 0.56 mgr/dm3), and oil product value increased up to 0.35 mgr/dm3). Obviously it resulted from water well productivity changes as the wells trap polluted subsurface water flow from BPPM facilities to Lake Baikal.
Subsurface water pollution at BPPM industrial site remains extremely high. Slurry lignin waste from BPPM continues to have significant negative impact on the quality of subsurface waters of Solzansky testing ground."
Water samples taken from observation wells at the landfill site of slurry lignin waste showed heavy toxic component load exceeding threshold limit value (TLV) for fishery water reservoirs such as: iron (up to 4 TLV), manganese (up to 13 TLV), copper (up to 22 TLV), zinc (up to 3 TLV), aluminum (up to 3 TLV), vanadium (up to TLV), cadmium (p to 1.9 TLV), methanol (4 TLV), formaldehyde (30 TLV). Groundwater constantly showed high concentration of oil products, lignin; periodically - high concentration of chemical oxygen demand.
Lake Baikal threatened by hydropower
Lake Baikal - the largest freshwater body on Earth, a World Heritage Site and Ramsar wetland "Selenga River Delta" is severely threatened by plans to increase artificial fluctuation of water levels to increase the production of hydropower plants on Angara river.
According to the GEF-World Bank Project on Strategy for Lake Baikal Biodiversity Conservation the ESE's Irkutsk Hydro Power Plant (HPP) has had most profound negative effect on Lake Baikal (World Heritage Site) by using it as reservoir with unnatural water regime. The integrity of the lake ecosystem was severely damaged by artificial changes to water levels that ruin natural cycles. This has lead to increase in erosion, losses in endemic and economically important fish, degradation of unique coastal ecosystems and historic relics, damage to coastal property of local people, conflicts with the Government of Buriatia Republic that receives most of negative impacts.
Since the first power plant was built on the out flowing river by 1960 it has taken the Baikal ecosystem 40 years to adjust to the altered hydrological regime. To prevent greater damage in the future, since 2001 the degree of allowable water-level change ( within 1 meter) was explicitly prescribed by special Decision of the Russian Government (26.03.2001 ?234). Limits on unnatural water level change is imposed by government and reflected in State Reports on Baikal Lake.
On October 14, 2007 a meeting chaired by Russia's Prime Minister Putin approved a proposal to lower the lake level below previously established limits. There was no sufficient scientific study, public consultations or proper EIA process before the decision was taken. However 2001 Decision of the Government has not been changed or violated ever since.
Company EuroSibenergo (ESE) that controls 4 hydropower plants in Angara-Enisey basin has undertaken continuous attempts to lobby for greater oscillation of Baikal lake water level in order to generate more energy at the expense of integrity the world heritage site (see Letter of O. Deripaska to the prime minister dated 2009-09-20). Such proposals were presented by company at Baikal Economic Forum in 2008, advocated in newspapers by top managers in 2010, as well as implanted into draft water management plan for Angara River.
Leading Russian scientists have already voiced well-founded concerns about the deep negative environmental impacts for the lake ecosystem, food chains, and specifically for ecological integrity of waterbird habitats in Selenga River Delta ( Ramsar site). In 2010 limitations of allowable water-level change were also included into "Norms of allowable change on natural conditions in lake Baikal ecosystem" officially endorsed by the Government.
In spring 2011 the governor of Irkutsk Region D.Mesentsev, following request from EuroSibenergo sent a letter to Prive-minister Putin on necessity to abolish 2011 Decision of the Council of Ministers and adopt new water resources management plan for Angara River cascade of reservoirs, which adds 50 centimeters of allowable water level change and allows to generate additionally 6 billion kilowatt-hours and expedite filling of Boguchanskaya reservoir downstream.