Russian toxic waste spill "threatens millions"

Greenpeace claims "major world industrial catastrophe" to follow spring thaw

A spillage of toxic waste from a paper and pulp mill near St Petersburg, Russia, will threaten "the life and health of millions of people" when this winter's snows begin to melt, Greenpeace Russia has warned after a study revealed that pesticide concentrations in the waste were up to 12,000 times permissible soil limits. The study was carried out in conjunction with Moscow State University after a dam which burst on 20 December spilt "not less than 700,000 cubic metres" of waste from a slime pit at the mill, which is situated on the banks of the River Syass approximately 120 kilometres from Russia's second city. The group believes that most of the waste is now in the river and the nearby Lake Ladoga but says a thick layer of ice and snow make it difficult to ascertain how far the waste has travelled from the spillage site. The group says the waste, which also contains large amounts of copper, chromium and lead, will launch "irreversible changes" in the Ladoga ecosystems when the spring thaw frees up the river and lake. It has called for an urgent clean-up of the site and the erection of dams to prevent more sludge reaching the lake. However, an official from the region's branch of the state environmental committee told the St Petersburg Times that it had "everything under control" and would move the sludge after the snow melts.

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