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Environmental disaster: what happened in Crimea's Armyansk

Who's fault is its? Is Ukraine in danger?
14:54, 5 September 2018

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The citizens of Armyansk, a twenty-thousand people city in the North of annexed Crimea and other nearest villages are suffering throat and nose mucous membrane irritation for almost two weeks already.

Presumably, this is due to the pollution of the air with toxic industrial substances from an acting plant “Crimean Titan”, situated next to the city. However, after the 10 days of the problem exists, the source of the pollution has not been identified yet.

On Tuesday the Crimean “authorities” announced that concentration of sulphur dioxide in the air in the city and its suburbs exceeds the norm. The operations were closed down at the plant, children with mothers were evacuated from the disaster area.

 

Yellowish smoke with pungent odor: how it started

On the night of August 23 the city of Armyansk and the nearby villages became filled with yellowish smoke with unpleasant pungent odor. Oily coating appeared on metal things, roofs of the houses and leaves of the trees. Citizens complained of heavy breathing, eyes, throat and nose mucous membrane irritation and other allergic reactions.

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Three days later, local “authorities” admitted that a fugitive emission of unknown origin occurred. A panel of experts from “the Ministry of ecology and natural resources of the Crimea”, “interregional directorate of the Federal Supervision Agency for Customer Protection and Human Welfare of the Russian Federation (Rospotrebnadzor)” and representatives of the local “Prosecutors Office”  visited the cite.

"The required samples for the laboratory study have been collected. The nature of the substance fallen is not yet identified. We are waiting for the results of the tests,” Igor Mikhailichenko, the “Vice—Prime Minister of the Crimean government” stated.

The next day, on August 28 the so-called “head of the Crimea” Sergey Aksenov announced that there is no threat to lives and health of the Crimean people due to the air pollution. However, in regards to visual indicators – the situation goes beyond the norms.

Nevertheless, until recently the experts of the Rospotrebnadzor stated that contaminant concentration in the air of Armyansk and its suburbs does not exceed standard hygienic regulations.

 

“Crimean Titan”, soda plant or bromine manufacturer – whose fault is it?

First off, the residents of Armyansk blamed Ukrainian Chemical Products, commonly called “The Crimean Titan” plant, stating that the plant exceeded emission standards for toxic substances.

The guess was quite logical: the plant is situated in the city itself. Its major business is the production of sulphur dioxide – a substance used in paint and rubber industries, in the production of plastic mass and other industries.

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Apart from that, the plant produces red iron oxide pigment, mineral fertilizers, sulphuric acid, aluminum sulfate, soda water glass, and iron sulfate.

The plant has two production units – Titan-1 and Titan-2 with 40 tons per year full capacity.

However, the Rospotrebnadzor experts excluded the version of emission by "The Crimean Titan”. They found no violations and assumed that the air contamination may be connected with operation of other local industrial enterprises. They headed to “Soda Crimea Plant” and a company producing brome.

Now, the local “authorities” call heat and absence of precipitations.

“According to preliminary data of the tests, the reason of the substance emission became the evaporation of acid collector, used by the branch of “Titan Investments” LLC. This was enabled by a long-term rise of temperature of the atmospheric air, as well as the lowering of water level in the acid collector,” – Igor Mikhailichenko said, cited by Crimea.Realities

Children evacuation from Armyansk and expansion of disaster area: Current situation

Earlier, on September 4, the “Crimean authorities” for the first time stated that permissible exposure to contaminators in Armyansk and surrounding villages exceeds the normal level. “At night, due to the weather change, drop of the night temperature and rise of day temperature, the permissible exposure to sulphur dioxide has exceeded the limit for the first time,” Sergey Aksyonov, the “Prime Minister of Crimea,” said.

However, he did not make public the exact data on the level of contamination and said nothing about the spreading area of the substance.

Aksyonov just added that this was not a diversion, but a long-known problem of acid accumulation and it is now being solved.

“Within three days, we will make a technical decision on liquidation of vapour consequences in Armyansk. During the meeting of emergency response team, two ways of solving the problem were found,” he claimed.

“Crimean authorities” say the first variant is to fill the acid accumulator with water from the Karkinit Bay. According to Aksyonov, in order not to worsen the situation, it has to be tested how this water will react with the acid environment. If Karkinit Bay’s water constitution cannot help fix the situation, a pipe will be laid. “It is clear how to do it technically and we will not hold any bidding procedures, so all the decisions will be taken,” he added.

If the first variant is not good enough, “Crimean authorities” will try to regulate the acid accumulator problem with a help of special compounds. However, it is yet unknown what those “special compounds” are.

Moreover, while the situation remains, the production at Crimean Titan was suspended for two weeks and it was decided to send all the school and pre-school children with mothers from Armyansk to the health camps in Yevpatoria, Bakhchysarai and Saky regions.

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“I clearly state this: nothing threatens the life and health of citizens. There are no reasons to announce an emergency. However, as a prevention measure, in order to work out all algorithms of action, it was decided to announce holidays for two weeks in schools and kindergartens…They will be organized for the state money and the operative headquarters will be created,” Aksyonov said.

It should be noted that in Armyansk, there are around 2,300 - 2,400 schoolchildren and 1,500 children in kindergartens that have to be evacuated.

Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare recommended other residents to go outside more seldom and if one cannot limit the time spent on the streets, recommended to protect skin and close the mouth with a damp bulky dressing.

Given this, many believe that “Crimean authorities” downgrade the level of threat and the residents of mainland Ukraine should also be on alert.

On September 3, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine has recorded the excess of chemicals, namely, toxic industrial substances in Kherson region on the border with the occupied Crimea.

During the past 24 hours, the border guards of Kherson detachment recorded the excess of chemicals in the air several times. It is in the Kalanchak and Preobrazhenka settlements.

In addition, the residents of Chabany town began to complain in social networks about the worsening health.

Vadym Chernysh, the Minister for the Temporary Occupation Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine, just like the "Crimean authorities," assures that lives of Kherson region inhabitants are not in danger and currently there are no reasons for evacuation.

According to him, the presence of sulfur dioxide in the air is dangerous only in certain concentrations.

However, the border guards at the administrative border were given chemical defense equipment. “All the checkpoints continue to work in a regular mode, we are ready to provide assistance to citizens who, in order to escape this disaster, would want to go from the occupied peninsula to the mainland Ukraine. Our physicians regularly examine the health of our border guards who serve in the immediate vicinity of this plant. The guards are having dizziness, nausea, headache, but after the appropriate medical consultations and taking medicine, these symptoms are removed. Such people are replaced on the posts, so that they can rest and be thoroughly examined,” Oleh Slobodyan, the Speaker of State Border Service of Ukraine said on air of 112 Ukraine TV channel Wednesday.

The authorities continue to monitor the environmental situation in Kherson region - take samples of water, soil and air for analysis.

Sulphur dioxide: What we know about it

Sulfur dioxide or sulfur oxide (IV) is a sulfur compound with an oxygen of SO2. In normal conditions, it is a colorless gas with a characteristic sharp smell (of inflamed match). It is very toxic.

Symptoms of poisoning with sulfur dioxide are running nose, coughing, hoarseness, strong throat irritation and a peculiar aftertaste. Inhalation of sulfur dioxide of higher concentration can cause choking, speech disorder, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, acute pulmonary edema.

In case of a short-term inhalation, it has a potent irritant effect and causes coughing and throat irritation.

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MAC (maximum permissible concentration): maximum one-time concentration in the air - 0,5 mg/m³, daily average - 0,05 mg/m³; in the room (working area) - 10 mg/m³.

It is interesting that people, animals and plants can have a different sensitivity to a substance. For example, the chemical is especially toxic to children. Experts explain this by the fact that they have a smaller diameter of the respiratory tract and it is easier to get a spasm.

In addition, sulfur dioxide is considered to be a heavy gas: it accumulates closer to the ground, and children receive high doses due to their short stature.

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