Sea animals have been washing up dead at the coast of the Kamchatka region in Russia. Locals saw dead seals, octopuses and sea urchins on the black-sanded Khalaktyrsky beach.
The regional governor, Vladimir Solodov, said Monday that the sea off the remote Kamchatka peninsula may have been contaminated with toxic chemicals. Environmental organization Greenpeace warned of an “ecological disaster” for marine life.
The area is a popular destination for adventure tourism with a lot of wildlife and live volcanoes.
Russian officials said tests found above-permitted levels of phenol and petroleum products. Experts were investigating whether this was linked to “spills of some toxic substances,” Solodov said in a statement.
He added that divers had confirmed the deaths of sea animals and pollution appeared to be spread over a wide area.
Surfers said they fell ill after getting into the water. “First, I felt “sandpaper” and pain (in my eyes), my eyes got red. I had blurry vision after leaving the water for some days, and puffy swelling,” surfer Maya Rudik told Reuters.
“Later, my sight got worse. It became hard to see things, even close ones. I visited an ophthalmologist, and he said this is a chemical burn of my cornea,” Rudik continued.
Dmitry Lyasov, a member of the Russian surfing team, said many people at a local surfing camp had fallen ill after getting into the water: “I didn’t vomit, but dozens have, and then they had fevers of up to 38 Celsius and body pain.”
“I entered the ocean and realized that the water had a different taste and smell. And the color (of the water) was sort of yellowish-green. And there was a lot of something like river mud or some microorganisms,” surfer Anton Morozov said.
“We rang the alarm, approached the governor, asked him to help us to take a water sample. We had got complaints from many people on the beach where guys also surf or just live there. And the first test showed there were phenol and oil products in the water,” Morozov continued.
Military testing sites
Greenpeace thinks that fuel stored in the region’s military testing grounds leaked out. The 38-year-old Kamchatka governor Solodov said there would be checks on Tuesday at two military testing sites, Radygino and Kozelsky.
Some experts have suggested that highly toxic rocket fuel could have leaked into the sea.
Vladimir Burkanov, a biologist specializing in seals, suggested in a Russian newspaper that old stores of rocket fuel kept in Radygino could have rusted and the fuel leaked into streams.
The other site, Kozelsky, has been used to bury toxic chemicals and pesticides, according to the governor’s website.
In May, 21,000 tonnes of fuel leaked in the Arctic Ocean after a fuel reservoir collapsed at a power plant in the Russian city of Norilsk. Sea animals and birds were killed by the spill.