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The threat to Lake Baikal

Reclamation of waste from the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill goes back to 2016 year

The Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation intends to conclude a state contract with the contractor by the end of this year, which will deal with the reclamation of waste from the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, accumulated since 60-ies of the last century and potentially threatening Lake Baikal. The competition for the selection of companies that will be engaged in the project is only now being prepared. But the work itself, obviously, will begin only in 2016 year, although earlier it was said about the intention of the authorities to launch the project this summer. Irkutsk scientists, however, doubt that the elimination of the plant's waste will be successful - the technology, in their opinion, is not very successful.

The threat to Lake Baikal

Lots of projects

Baikal pulp and paper mill, located on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal in the Irkutsk region, was put into operation in 1966 year. He was engaged in the production of bleached and unbleached pulp, cardboard and paper. In 2013, by the decision of the government of the Russian Federation and creditors (the largest of them - Vnesheconombank and Irkutskenergo) stopped production and reduced almost all the personnel. In 2012, the plant was declared bankrupt and is in the bankruptcy proceedings until 21 October 2015. The debt of the BPPM to creditors is about 2,8 billion rubles.

The BPPM was almost from the very moment of its launch considered ecologists the main polluter of Lake Baikal. The plant discharged industrial effluent into the lake - however, before that they passed through the treatment plant of the plant, which, according to environmentalists, at the beginning of the 2000-s were among the best in the country. An ordinary person who does not understand the issues of ecology could have noticed the negative influence of the plant already at the entrance to the city of Baikalsk, for which the BPPM was a city-forming one. Near Baikalsk there was an unpleasant smell - the whole point is that when the pulp was being cooked, the combine threw out gas, methyl mercaptan, which was somewhat similar in smell with hydrogen sulphide.

Scientists 30 years ago drew attention to another problem of the plant - waste. For their burial in the 70-ies of the last century, alongside the BPPM, slug storage cards-lignin-were created. In total, their 10, each laminar, lime slag, and scum water are included in the structure of each accumulator (card). As a result of the long-term transformation process, the accumulated material has been significantly transformed, and therefore gases such as methyl mercaptan, methane and hydrogen sulfide are present in the accumulators. In addition, even 4 maps contain ash and slag from the work of the BPPM TPP. Also, in two storage cards, solid domestic waste is present in large quantities, such as polyethylene packaging and packaging, bark, paper. In total, BPPM maps contain more than 6,2 million cubic meters of various wastes.

As explained EastRussia in the government of the Irkutsk region, from 1980-ies, more than 20 projects on waste reclamation of the BPPM were developed. For example, it was supposed to "compact" the sludge-lignin with solid waste products - this would create a certain solid site at the site of the waste landfill. Alternatively, it was proposed to export them to the Cheremkhovo district of the Irkutsk region for burial - but this project proved costly, almost 17 billion rubles. Scientists NI IrNITU offered a special technology to burn sludge-lignin - as a result, it would form ash, which after preparation could be used as a sorbent for wastewater treatment.

Monolith all waste

More or less, the reclamation project moved from its place in 2013, when the plant stopped pulping, and the Russian government ordered Vnesheconombank and VEB Engineering to oversee its closure. The last company, having studied the world experience, offered its own version of reclamation. According to the project, it is proposed to pump out water from sludge collectors and send it to the treatment plants of the BPPM. Then the lignin slime is taken out of the accumulators, it is mixed with ash and lime - this mixture will be put back into cards. In the future, the "recycled" mass will turn into a stone-like monolith, indicated in the materials on the site of the city of Baikalsk.

- The product of the technology chosen by us for the remediation of waste should be a harmless mixture, which eventually turns into a monolithic mass. It includes sludge-lignin, ash and slag waste from the combined heat and power plant, as well as calcareous lime components. This makes it possible to neutralize almost all bacteriological wastes, neutralize toxic chlorine-containing substances and create an encapsulating barrier to prevent the ingress of pollutants into the environment, said Dmitry Scheibe, CEO of VEB Engineering, told EastRussia.

In October of the year 2014, VEB Engineering received a positive opinion from the state environmental review for the reclamation project. True, the second time. For the first time the commission gave a negative conclusion.

Dmitriy Sheibe explains this by the fact that members of the regional expert commission of the state ecological expertise had comments related to technical solutions for the separation of maps, the removal of gases and equipment for their purification. Experts, from his words, expressed doubts in obtaining a safe monolith.

- But we have changed the design of dividing partitions, the technology of tapping and purification of gases, have made selection of new equipment. When choosing equipment, the main focus was on domestic manufacturers. Together with Irkutsk organizations and institutes, we conducted additional laboratory studies to obtain a monolith, and according to their results we once again became convinced of the safety of the chosen technology, "the EastRussia interlocutor notes.

He assured that VEB Engineering in the project even took into account the fact that the maps contain radioactive substances and heavy metal ions, which are present in the ashes and slags after burning natural coals.

VEB Engineering estimates that a rehabilitation project for 5 years will cost 6,2 billion rubles. The press service of the Ministry of Natural Resources EastRussia clarified that now we are talking about 5,97 billion rubles.

When will the process begin?

The reclamation was planned to begin as early as the year 2014 - at least, the deputy governor of the Irkutsk region Larisa Zabrodskaya counted on that. But for this it is necessary that the project be examined at the first attempt. Subsequently, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergei Donskoi, said that the reclamation will begin in 2015 year.

According to the press service of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, the "Development Center of the HHC" subordinated to the FGBU should announce a tender for the selection of the contractor, who will undertake reclamation. "The Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia plans to conclude a contract in 2015 year in order to start the implementation of works," the department specified.

A source in the Irkutsk region government explained EastRussia that, most likely, the project will start in May-June of the year 2016 (it is possible to conduct similar work at the BPPM from May to October). At the same time, the authorities expect that former employees of the plant (up to 300 thousand) will be involved in reclamation before 400-1,5.

Alexander Suturin, Acting Deputy Director for Research at the Limnogogical Institute (LIN) of the SB RAS, says that the technology of homonolation of the BPPM waste proposed by VEB-Engineering cannot be implemented in principle.

- The developers of the project suggest mixing lime with lignin, but this will lead to an increase in the amount of chlorophenols in the water during the treatment. That is, around the BPPM and Baikalsk there will be a disgusting smell, much stronger than it was when methyl mercaptan was emitted during the plant's operation. We know this because in the 90-ies of the last century we tested such a waste elimination technology at the Selenga Central Control Commission in Buryatia, "Alexander Suturin explained.

According to him, it would be safer to start experimentally using the experimentally tested sludge elimination technology developed by LIN and the Sibgiprobum design institute at one of the sites. It is a question of dehydration, deodorization and burial of sludge-lignin with ash of coals (water in this case from the accumulators is sent to the purification plants of the BPPM).

- The cost of this project is about 3,2 billion rubles, the implementation period is 5 years. But, unfortunately, it was not taken into consideration, - says Alexander Suturin.

He believes that the main drawback of the project "VEB-Engineering" is that there is nothing about anti-salt protection of sludge accumulators. According to scientists, every 40 years from the Khamar-Daban ridge in the south of Lake Baikal mudflows come down, the last time they were recorded in 1971 - then even people died, the stream demolished part of the railway.

- Imagine that there are a couple of BPPM cards on the way - everything will be carried to Lake Baikal. The damage to the ecosystem will be enormous! - notes the scientist.

But Dmitry Sheibe points out that the sludge collectors will have a monolithic base, which means that the sludge-lignin will not fall into Baikal.

Nevertheless, Alexander Suturin says that in 2014 the employees of the Irkutsk Scientific Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences wrote a letter to the Prosecutor General's Office with a request to study in detail the project of reclamation of the BPPM and draw the attention of the head of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation to it. It was after this letter that, according to the scientist, the process of further work on the BPPM was slowed down in the Ministry of Natural Resources, including the choice of a contractor who will reclaim waste.

Park instead of combine

The question of what can appear on the site of the plant after its closure and disposal of waste is almost as urgent as the issue of reclamation of its waste. In fact, this issue goes back to the beginning of the 2000-s, when the re-profiling of the operating plant was seriously discussed. Then there was talk about placing on the industrial site of the plant a new enterprise for bottling water (at the BPPMC even invited experts Coca-Cola), woodworking, the production of electrical products.

Dmitry Sheibe says that "VEB-Engineering" carried out a feasibility study for several BPPM facilities, including the processing of solid domestic waste; Modernization of treatment facilities; Dismantling of buildings, structures and equipment of the BPPM; Reclamation, vertical planning, landscaping and planting of the territory of the plant, feasibility study of water supply.

Most of the funds, according to the source EastRussia, is needed for reclamation, vertical planning, landscaping and planting of the territory BPPM - 2,1 billion rubles.

"The territory of the BPPM is heavily polluted by chemicals, in some places the soil is impregnated with chemicals to a depth of 5 meters, contaminated soil, almost 500 thousand cubic meters, must be taken to the landfill and replaced with a new one," notes Dmitry Sheibe.

He believes that part of the plant’s designs will have to be demolished, especially those that are not subject to major repairs. The interlocutor of EastRussia says that VEB, preparing the concept of modernization of the Baikalsk single-industry town, considered more than a hundred investment projects with the participation of Russian and international investors. Conventionally, all the facilities offered for placement on the plant’s territory can be divided into tourist (within the framework of the special economic zone "Gate of Baikal") and industrial (pharmaceuticals and production of dietary supplements, fish farming).

One of the latest projects that was discussed in the regional government and the Russian government was the creation of the theme park “Preserved Russia”. We are talking about the creation on the industrial site of the museum of environmental disasters, a center for extreme adventures, an interactive museum of Baikal, a conference center, an ecological park, and an exhibition center. The cost of the project is 22,1 billion rubles, the implementation period is up to 2026. According to a government official in the region, “the concept of the theme park has been postponed due to large investments in infrastructure.”

Dmitry Sheibe says that to realize all projects, it is necessary to reconstruct the infrastructure of the BPPM, including heat supply, treatment facilities, water treatment and water supply, and the system for the disposal of solid waste.

Meanwhile, the BPPM is in the bankruptcy proceedings. The arbitration manager of the plant, Alexander Ivanov, explained to EastRussia that the competitive mass was formed, almost 100% of the property was registered.

- The bankruptcy proceedings will necessarily be renewed (after 21 October 2015), since the tasks provided for by the bankruptcy law must be fully resolved. And now the process of resolving them is still underway: all the property of the BPPM is being evaluated, after which there will be bids for its sale, "said Alexander Ivanov. Nevertheless, he specified that the sale of the property of the BPPM will be carried out taking into account the "future concept of development" of the industrial site.

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