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Uglegorsky dam

Sakhalin's coal empire is accused of environmental disaster.

For more than two weeks, the Sakhalin Region has been under the scrutiny of the federal media and supervisory authorities due to the emergency and the scandal in which the coal empire, regional authorities and a municipal newspaper were involved. In the Uglegorsk region, a waste rock collapse blocked the river, which helped to supply water to several villages. By order of the city authorities, the publication of a local newspaper covering the disaster was disrupted, the mayor initiated the dismissal of the editor, and local residents were seriously afraid of the flood. EastRussia talks about a high-profile emergency.

Uglegorsky dam
Photo: newspaper "Uglegorskie Novosti"

The incident, due to which people learned about the Uglegorsk region in every corner of Russia, happened on the night of July 9-10. The first reports of rock collapse were disseminated by the Vostochnaya Mining Company - the collapse occurred on the territory of the Solntsevsky coal mine, a key production sector at the mining enterprise.

“There are no casualties. There is no threat to the population and life facilities of the district. All supervisors have been notified. Actions to localize the consequences are carried out in accordance with the emergency response plan. The company will provide full assistance to the supervisory authorities and the administration of the Uglegorsk region in carrying out investigations and eliminating the consequences of a man-made accident, ”- said in an operational press release from the Supreme Command.

Two days later, a bypass channel for the Yellow River began to be laid in the area of ​​rock collapse. The channel was blocked by a huge mass of rock, and water began to accumulate in front of the blockage. To eliminate the dam, the builders have been digging an alternative path 500 meters long for almost two weeks. The Yellow River, flowing into Uglegorka, provided water to several nearby villages - Olkhovka, Nikolskoye and Krasnopolye. The inhabitants of the latter were especially worried: their houses stood on the banks of the reservoir, which, after the collapse, became shallow and cloudy. In addition, people feared flooding due to the accumulation of water near the ore masses. But no one could have found out about the concerns of ordinary Uglegors: the district administration reported that everything was in order and the situation was under control, the same official reports were published by the Supreme Command. To attract the attention of the whole of Sakhalin to the environmental problem, and after them of the whole country, the municipal newspaper helped - or, more precisely, the high-profile scandal associated with it.

Correspondents of the publication "Uglegorskie Novosti", known to every inhabitant of the island region, from the first days after the demise of the breed, worked at the scene. The journalists showed the real scale of the collapse, talked with local residents and prepared for the release of the next issue of the newspaper dedicated to the environmental disaster. However, the plans of the editorial office were disrupted by uninvited guests - according to the employees of Uglegorskiye Novosti, the mayor of the district and representatives of the Supreme State Committee actually disrupted the publication of the printed edition.

“… About ten people broke into“ Uglegorskie Novosti ”. Our team continued to publish the newspaper. The light was turned off in the editorial office (according to the electricians, the wires were cut), the printing house was also turned off. Then the mayor Doroshchuk came to the editorial office, who ordered not to publish the newspaper and to leave the premises for the team, "wrote the editor-in-chief of Uglegorskie Novosti Zinaida Makarova in the official Telegram channel newspapers.

According to the editor-in-chief, on the same day she was visited by two deputy general directors of VGK Andrey Motovilov and Alexander Bosoy... Makarova's conversation was recorded on a dictaphone (a copy of the audio recording is at the disposal of EastRussia). Judging by the conversation, the guests were not satisfied with the format of filing about river pollution and rock collapse.

“The situation is unpleasant for us. We, in fact, wanted to ask you what is going on - we wanted to hear your opinion. <...> What is happening regarding the coverage of the company's activities and everything else. <...> The newspaper submits material without taking into account the opinion of the company, in almost all cases. <...> What is your position? You think that this is all right, right? ”- says one of those present.

On the same day, Zinaida Makarova notes, the mayor of the district, Sergei Doroshchuk, handed her a notice of dismissal. According to the editor-in-chief, the official almost openly defended the "good name" of the coal enterprise.

“I have exhausted all possibilities. A person breaks the law - she is here illegally, in this workplace. Do not allow the use of municipal property outside of working hours, "the head of the Uglegorsk district said to a police officer, being in the office of the editor-in-chief (a copy of the video is at the disposal of EastRussia).

The confrontation between the journalists of the district administration and representatives of the Supreme Command continued for more than a week. In addition to the issue of the newspaper, the preparation of the video version of the news was also disrupted - it was supposed to go on the air on July 16, and the main topic was also the incident at the Solntsevsky coal mine. According to Makarova, in the building of the editorial office they set up guards who took pictures of the newspaper employees at the entrance - journalist tied up their actions on behalf of the Supreme Command. “Uglegorskie Novosti” turned to colleagues in the shop for help in publicizing: local media immediately spread information on social networks that the editorial offices were not allowed to work. Thus, the federal and then foreign mass media drew attention to what is happening in the Uglegorsk region - and all spoke out in defense of the Sakhalin journalists.

“This is a publication about the region and for the region. Not for the mayor, but for the residents. And it was very readable. <...> In terms of attendance, the site "UN" ("Uglegorskie Novosti" - editor's note) is made by many regional publications. UN was not an opposition publication, God forbid. The main agenda - repairs of streets and houses, holes in the asphalt, competitions of everything in the world, concerts in the House of Culture. But if there were problems, they were covered. And they covered it very well, from all sides, ”summed up a well-known journalist in the Sakhalin region, Lyubov Barabashova.

Already on July 17, the first signs of activity of supervisory agencies appeared. Experts from the Far Eastern Directorate of Rosprirodnadzor began an official verification of the circumstances of the waste rock coming off the Solntsevsky open-pit mine - the experts began to analyze the activities of the VGK. On the same day, the deputy chairman of the Sakhalin government, Vladimir Sidorenko, went to the Uglegorsk region, and the head of the municipality introduced a high alert regime on the territory.

“Our most important task is to prevent a technological incident from affecting the quality of the water supply for our residents. Therefore, we constantly monitor the state of drinking water. New treatment facilities, which have recently been commissioned, fully cope with their function, ”said Mayor Sergei Doroshchuk.

Demonstrating his involvement in the elimination of the consequences of the rock collapse, the head of the Uglegorsk region did not comment on the scandal in the Sakhalin media, in which he appeared in connection with the disruption of the publication of the Uglegorskie Novosti newspaper. The administration limited itself to an official press release, where it reproached the journalists of the editorial office for everything.

“… A new head, a lawyer was sent to UIA to get to know the newspaper staff. The deputy mayor was supposed to present him. Unfortunately, the employees of the budgetary institution behaved ambiguously. Having learned about the change of the leader, they refused to get acquainted with the new leader. <...> As a result, pretending that they did not recognize the first vice-mayor who arrived at the site, the journalists called the police, "the mayor's office said in a statement (a copy is at the disposal of EastRussia).

In the meantime, the investigators also joined the proceedings on the state of emergency at the Solntsevsky coal mine - the check was initiated under the article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation "Violation of environmental protection rules during the production of work." A delegation of deputies of the regional Duma and representatives of Rospotrebnadzor visited the Uglegorsk district - they checked the quality of the water after filtration. At the same time it became known that Rostekhnadzor was conducting its inspection at the scene of the incident. And on July 22, Governor Valery Limarenko left for the region - and already in the afternoon the Uglegorsk residents learned that their mayor was resigning.

“The problem that has appeared today - it was brewing, because similar cases in his work happened before,” Limarenko told reporters. - We estimate the work as unsatisfactory. This, in fact, is the problem. I noticed that all technical work is done quickly and well in an organized manner. But work with the population is carried out very poorly and coverage in the press is very poor. "

LLC "Solntsevsky coal mine" has already become a defendant in two investigations. An administrative case was initiated against the company due to violation of the requirements for the protection of water bodies, as well as a criminal case on the fact of violation of environmental protection rules during the work. Investigators said preliminary data indicate that the organization is polluting rivers by mining coal. It is likely that one of the episodes of this case will be a recent incident on the Uglegorka River: the water in the spawning reservoir became cloudy, and the fish stopped entering it. Ironically, the municipal media released a special report on this on the eve of the breed's descent into the Yellow River.

"Uglegorsk city prosecutor's office, according to the information of the TV company" Uglegorskie Novosti "on the pollution of the spawning river Uglegorka by the coal mining enterprise LLC" Solntsevsky coal mine ", initiated verification measures, within which a competent assessment of the technogenic impact of the coal enterprise on the water body will be given, - Told Inna Lopatina, senior assistant of the Uglegorsk city prosecutor.

Simultaneously with the activities of the Solntsevsky coal mine, questions arose about the work of a similar enterprise in Boshnyakovo - coal is mined there next to the Onnay River and, as EastRussia reported, recently local residents sounded the alarm due to dirty water in black oil spots. The mayor's office of Uglegorsk, oddly enough, did not find any problems, and specialists from the Sakhalin Ministry of Ecology intervened in the matter - the check is still underway. Section Onnayskiy-Yuzhny VGK won at the beginning of 2017 after Rosnedra initiated the corresponding tender, and "Boshnyakovskiy coal mine", according to experts, can develop the deposit for about 10 more years. The scale of the possible damage is now anyone's guess.

As for the littered Yellow River, they gave it a way out. The bypass canal has already been launched - as Vostochnaya Mining Company reports, the situation is under control, and the water is monitored daily, and there are no complaints about the quality.

“Solntsevsky coal mine conducts daily monitoring with water sampling of the Uglegorka River and its tributary - the Zheltaya River with the involvement of the independent analytical laboratory“ EKO-SORS ”. According to her data, no excess of the maximum permissible concentration of possible pollutants has been revealed since the beginning of the restoration work until today. Monitoring with water sampling in the Uglegorka and Zheltaya rivers will continue, "EastRussia was told in the press service of the All-Russian Conservatory.

Sakhalin ecologists, on the other hand, are confident that Yellow will remain dirty for a long time to come. The bypass canal will not become a salvation, and muddy water will inevitably flow to the inhabitants of this area.

“Now, thanks to the bypass canal, the threat of mudflow has been removed. Downstream, in the floodplain of the Zheltaya River, there are two households. Four adults and 10 children live in one of them. There was a real threat to people, now it has been removed. But through a dug channel, water never flows clean. Since this is a freshly dug channel, the water will continue to erode it. I will never believe that the water leaving the canal will be clean: it will be dirty until it has been quite a while for it to rinse. But these are the laws of geomorphology: nothing can be done here. Now the problem is that the water after the start-up through the bypass channel will be dirty. Accordingly, it pollutes the Uglegorka River, where there are water supply sources. And this is the main problem, "said Dmitry Lisitsyn, chairman of the council of the Sakhalin Environmental Watch regional public organization, to EastRussia.

In 2018, Rostekhnadzor already punished the Solntsevsky coal mine for non-compliance with industrial safety laws when developing deposits. Then the check showed that the company dumped overburden at a minimum distance from the boundaries of the inner dump of the Severny site. And on another site, there was a risk of untreated water entering external watercourses. The company and its managers were fined, but it did not get any better: the result of the LLC's work became known that night from July 9 to 10.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Ecology of the Sakhalin Oblast, despite even the governor's direct attention to the problem in the Uglegorsk District, preferred not to intercept the testing initiative. While activists of public organizations (which include "Ekovahta Sakhalin") draw attention to the emergency on the Zheltaya River, environmentalists subordinate to the regional government are modestly awaiting the assessments of the supervisory authorities. The official reason is the lack of formal powers, since the federal authorities carry out environmental control of water bodies.

“The Ministry made a corresponding request to the Sakhalin Department of Rostekhnadzor, the Far Eastern Interregional Administration of Rosprirodnadzor and the Sakhalin-Kuril Territorial Administration of the Federal Agency for Fisheries. As of July 22.07.2021, XNUMX, the ministry did not receive information from these bodies, ”the letter, signed by the acting Acting President, says. Minister of Ecology of the Island Region Natalia Zavalkova, addressed to EastRussia in response to an official request.

As for the disruption of the publication of the Uglegorskie Novosti newspaper, it attracted the attention of the Sakhalin Investigative Department of the TFR. Law enforcement officers are checking under the article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation "Obstruction of the legitimate professional activities of journalists." The story of Zinaida Makarova's dismissal will be viewed in the same vein. The editor-in-chief of Uglegorsk News herself did not respond to EastRussia's request. There is a fairly high probability that the responsibility for the war involving the coal empire and the municipal media will be borne by the now ex-mayor Sergei Doroshchuk. His reputation as an official will now unambiguously be associated with the story of the cut electric wires and a scandalous quarrel with journalists for the sake of the interests of coal miners. Proofs of the real connection of the former head of the Uglegorsk region with the coal empire will hardly interest anyone now, but will they dare to ignore eco-standards, as before?

“This is a natural result of many years of ignoring the technical requirements to ensure the integrity of the dump. And this is happening not only at the facilities of the "Eastern Mining Company" - the same problem in the Nevelsky region with the enterprises of the "Miner" group. Not so long ago, there was exactly the same situation, only a landslide descended directly on households. To summer cottages. The problem was quickly hushed up by the fact that the company quickly paid the victims compensation, which they were satisfied with. The question was closed. But this, so to speak, is the treatment of a serious illness with poultices. This will continue if we do not have a systematic, thorough work of state regulatory bodies, ”emphasized the head of the Sakhalin Ekovahta, Dmitry Lisitsyn. - Natural causes have become the impetus for the descent of rocks. The main one is gravity. This dump had to be designed and built in such a way that no descent would occur, no matter what forces of nature were acting on it. It must be built with a safety margin. It is quite obvious that it was not built this way. And this is the direct fault of the company. "

The activities of coal mining enterprises controlled by the Eastern Mining Company will remain under the close supervision of regulatory agencies in the next few months. Themis has on one side the ecological disaster and the problems of rural residents due to polluted rivers, on the other - one of the largest taxpayers in the region.

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