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Life with a taste of gasoline

Chernihiv environmentalists began to liquidate the consequences of an old man-made accident that threatens to escalate into a real environmental disaster
06 December, 00:00

Chernihiv environmentalists began the process of eliminating consequences of the old man-made accident that happened in December 1973 and because of which people there still cannot have a normal life. Then as a result of oil leakage there had formed a real gasoline lake.

Oleksandr KUZNIETSOV, head of the Department of Emergency and Civil Protection at Chernihiv City Council explained that in October the work on pumping oil from the ground was started. He also said that the SND-Plus company from Bucha, Kyiv region won the tender for the elimination of polluted area. The company has informed that they really participated in the tender. Now, they are conducting necessary tests on the territory of the man-made accident free of charge. Specialists of the company drill research wells, take samples of soil for analyses and geologists prepared a plan of work on this object. It was submitted for approval. Once the plan is approved the company will tackle the elimination of pollution.

According to the State Administration of Environmental Protection in Chernihiv oblast, contamination of soil and groundwater is the consequence of man-made accident which resulted in leakage of nearly 150 tons of oil into the ground. According to the State Administration, economic activity at the facility “Naftobaza” JSC “Chernihivnaftoproduct” resulted in soil contamination that exceeded the maximum permissible concentration. Oil products, which are found at depths ranging from two to thirty meters, formed immovable underground lake, which may exist for decades.

“Life here is unbearable at any time of the year,” the resident of Nakhalivka district Tamara Nemchenko complained about the situation. “Pits with gasoline smell awfully and in winter time on both sides of the road there is yellow snow. In fact, we do not have a road as such. In winter we even hire the road cleaning machines for our own money. People get the drinking water from the only well, which is used by everyone in the neighborhood, but even this water has a specific oil flavor and acrid smell. Oil depot, located on the slope of the hill near our dwellings was built in 1928,” said Nemchenko.

According to environmentalists, polluted area consists of two parts. The first is the territory of the oil depot and the slope of the indigenous hill. Oil products stay there in sand at a depth of 26 to 30 meters. Experts suggest that the concentration of oil mixture is 100-150 liters per cubic meter of soil and it covers the total area of 2.88 hectares. The second part of the polluted area is located in the floodplain of the Desna River.

“Oil products in concentration of 40 to 50 liters per cubic meter are contained in sandy-loam soils on the area of 0.39 hectare,” said Natalia RADCHENKO, member of the press service of the State Department of Environmental Protection in Chernihiv Oblast. “Contamination of the second part of the land that is outside the Oil Depot on Kropyvnytskoho Street is the most dangerous environmentally.”

Environmentalists argue that the oil mixture consists of gasoline for 90 percent and for 10 percent of the diesel fuel. But local officials say that oil will be suitable for use after being pumped out of the ground and filtered. Therefore, they hope to also reimburse the cost of the work. And while the work has not started yet the local residents take advantage of the situation.

There appeared even little sheikhs in Chernihiv who earn money on the environmental issue. Everywhere you look there is a small hole drilled where the liquid is gathering. The real horror for residents of Nakhalivka, which is currently the home of over three dozen Chernihiv citizens, began in 2004, when local people accidentally discovered gasoline underground. Since then, everyone who is not lazy began to drill pits manually. Enterprising residents of Chernihiv with the help of unpretentious devices produce liquid similar to gasoline. At least it burns as a real fuel.

“There is not just 150 tons but probably as much as 800 tons in here,” said Nina Puhach, another resident of the district. “Anyone who wants extracts gasoline from the pits right in our yards non-stop. Later they successfully sell it to gasoline stations,” said the woman.

According to the local residents, people carry fuel in cans or in barrels, until recently there was no control over such matters or basic security measures in the area. Only starting from September of this year there was installed an iron booth near the drilled holes and the area was marked by warning tape. Specialists of the company that won the tender for elimination of the effects of the pollution work at the site of the man-made accident. According to Puhach, the workers take out gasoline from the drilled pits around the clock by old methods – with plastic or glass jars and then the gasoline is transported in an unknown direction. People estimated that only in the first month of oil liquidation the workers of the company drilled additional 97 pits one or two meters deep.

Meanwhile, the company, which is currently conducting a study on the scene of the accident, still does not know exactly what methods will be used by its specialists for digging oil. “Liquidation can be carried out by means of drilling pits or by pumping the oil out of the ground,” explained the representatives of the company contractor. “In terms of security for the people and with regard to the adjacent communications it is not always possible to use the method of pumping.”

However, few people believe in the effectiveness of the pit method, because people have been drawing gasoline in such way for nine years already. Local residents suggest that gasoline still flows from the tanks of the oil depot. Environmentalist, in their turn, cannot predict how groundwater will behave. The groundwater in this area is, in fact, very close to the surface. If the effects of the accident will not be liquidated until the low temperatures hit, it is quite possible that the next year during the spring floods content of the lake can get into the Desna River, which provides water for the capital and this will be a real ecological disaster.

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