Fears of toxic fuel leak as sea creatures die in Russia ‘ecological disaster’

Water pollution in Russia’s Kamchatka region that caused sea creatures to wash up dead on beaches prompted fears on Monday that rocket fuel stored in the region’s military testing grounds could have leaked out.

The water pollution came to light late last month after local surfers reported stinging eyes and said the water had changed colour and developed an odour. Officials later confirmed the surfers had suffered mild burns to their corneas.

Then locals witnessed large numbers of dead sea creatures including seals, octopuses and sea urchins washed up onto a black-sanded beach popular with tourists.

The regional governor, Vladimir Solodov, said Monday that the sea off the remote Kamchatka peninsula may have been contaminated with toxic chemicals as Greenpeace warned of an “ecological disaster” for marine life.

Officials have said tests soon after 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 creatures and pollution appeared to be spread over a wide area.

Officials are scrambling to come up with the cause after President Vladimir Putin in June reacted angrily to the late reporting of an oil leak in Arctic Siberia that poured thousands of tons of diesel into land and waterways.

Ecology Minister Dmitry Kobylkin said in televised comments that Putin had ordered him to get to the bottom of the situation. (AFP | Anna MALPAS)