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. Pipeline Leak In West Russia Could Poses Serious Threat

The leak was the result of a crack in a joint, in a section of the pipeline that had been in service for 42 years, she said. (illustration only)
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) July 31, 2006
A major pipeline delivering oil from Russia to its European neighbours ruptured at the weekend, posing a potentially serious environmental threat, the government said on Monday.

"Taking account of the information the ministry has received from representatives of environmental NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in the Bryansk region, the consequences of this accident could lead to an ecological catastrophe," the ministry of natural resources said in a statement.

The accident occurred on Saturday on a section of the Druzhba pipeline running through the province of Bryansk, near Russia's border with Belarus.

"This was an accident of medium severity that has polluted a large part of the public forests," the ministry statement added.

"Our experts at the site have said that more than 100 tonnes of oil leaked from the pipeline on Saturday," ministry spokesman Renat Guizatulin said.

Oleg Mitval, a senior official in the ministry, told AFP an area covering 10,000 square metres (12,000 square yards) could have been contaminated by the oil.

Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, which manages the Druzba pipeline, gave much lower figures for the extent of the damage, however.

It said on its website: "Forty eight cubic metres of oil (leaked and) polluted an area covering 340 square metres ... The Yput river, four kilometres (2.5 miles) away, was not polluted."

Mitval said local officials had attempted on Saturday to cover up the rupture in the pipeline.

"There has been an attempt to hide the information on this leak on the part of the official organisations involved, which increases our concern about the risk to the environment," Mitval, deputy director of the ministry's environmental monitoring service, told AFP.

He said that hundreds of faults had been discovered in recent months on the pipe, which had been in service since 1964.

"It is already clear that the measures which Transneft takes are not sufficient to ensure the safety of the pipleline," he said.

The Bryansk regional office of the emergency situations ministry sought on Monday to minimise the incident.

"We are not talking about an ecological catastrophe here," office spokeswoman Irina Yegorushkina told AFP.

The ministry said that "a layer of soil five to 10 centimetres (two to four inches) was removed" from the area polluted by the pipeline, "with a view to cleaning". Transneft also said work was under way "to cleanse the polluted soil".

The leak was the result of a crack in a joint, in a section of the pipeline that had been in service for 42 years, she said.

It happened two kilometres from the village of Krasnaya Sloboda, in a section of the pipeline running from Unechka in Bryansk province to the nothern Belarussian city of Polotsk, officials said.

Separately, Lithuanian Economy Minister Vytas Navickas said that a technical problem had halted the flow of crude oil from Russia to Lithuania's Mazeikiu Nafta refinery.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Beijing (AFP) July 31, 2006
A town in southwest China is wrestling with a serious pollution problem after a thermometer factory contaminated its vegetable fields and rivers with mercury, local media said Monday. The residents of Dongyang town in Chongqing municipality may face the loss of 20 hectares (49.3 acres) of farmland because the mercury has seeped into the soil, the Chongqing Evening Post said.

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