Wednesday, 7 September 2016


Startled residents of a Russian city inside the Arctic Circle have been publishing photos of a local river that has mysteriously turned blood red.

Photos published on Russian social media appear to the show the river Daldykan near the city of Norilsk flowing a vivid burgundy color. Russian authorities have yet to establish a reason for the river’s unusual appearance, but local people quickly began linking it to a giant metals factory located upstream. Russia's environment ministry said it was investigating this as the likely cause.

Norilsk is known as one of the most polluted cities on earth, built around factories mostly belonging to the vast metals company, Norilsk Nikel. Some Norilsk residents wrote in a local social media group that they believed the river’s biblical shade was linked to runoff from a nearby smelting plant.

Some suggested the color was being produced by wastewater mixed with mineral ore leaking from the plant into the river. There are several metals plants in Norilsk, but users pointed the blame at one named the "Hope" Metals Plant.

Obtained by ABC News Photos posted by local residents on social media appear to show the Daldykan river close to Norilsk has turned blood red.

The posts prompted Russia's environment ministry to respond, issuing a statement announcing that it was investigating and that its preliminary information suggested the cause was a leak from waste-pipes belonging to Norilsk Nikel. A company subsidiary had denied the pollution had been caused by an accident involving the Hope factory, according to the statement. The ministry said it was still working to locate the pollution's source.

Reached by ABC News, the factory declined to comment.

Residents on social media, as well as a local indigenous group, said they were sure the color was coming from the area's metals plants, noting that it was not the first time the region's water bodies had been contaminated by them.

A user named Evgeny Belikov, who claimed to have previously worked at the Hope plant, said that workers referred to a reservoir connected to it as the “red sea” on account of its color, produced by the ore-runoff.

Other users posted older photos seeming to show the reservoir a similar color, in an area that had large pipes running into it.

“In winter, the snow’s also red,” Belikov wrote on the social media group. “On the one hand, it’s beautiful, but on the other it’s chemical.”

Grigory Dukarev, from a group representing local indigenous communities in the area, told ABC News he was preparing to submit a formal complaint to regional authorities asking them to investigate and was travelling to the river to record the pollution himself.

Dukarev, who represents the Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the Taimir Peninsula, said that he had been previously told the run-off from the factories was not harmful and would cause minimal ecological damage. But he said he was skeptical.

"I'm going to ask the representative from the company to drink this water," Dukarev said. "Will they drink this water? I doubt that."

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