How Dump Business Poisons Children in Russia

On March 21, a local court in the Russian town of Volokolamsk ruled to keep a dump producing unbearable smell open. Just on the next day dozens of children were taken to hospital. No measures have been taken to protect the health of people and the environment.

This week, Volokolamsk, a town northwest of Moscow exploded with furious protests against a local dump which allegedly emits a toxic gas. On March 21, according to Russian TASS news agency, more than 20 pupils were hospitalized, presumably after a strong release of hydrogen sulfide at the Yadrovo dump. The Volokolamsk district’s head Yevgeny Gavrilov quoted by the Moscow Times said on March 22 that as many as 57 children sought medical attention. Meanwhile in total about 200 people living near the dump are claimed to have complained of headaches and nausea.

On March 21, Volokolamsk mayor Pyotr Lazarev told Current Time TV that the situation was very serious. “The children were taken to the clinic by ambulances. Parents are gathered near the hospital, demanding clear information on their children’s diagnoses. [Doctors] say it is poisoning,” Lazarev said.

The situation caused rallies against the local officials and urged Andrey Vorobyov, the governor of the Moscow region, to visit the hospital the sick children were taken to. However, his visit couldn’t calm down the crowd demanding an immediate closure of the dump. When the governor left the hospital, demonstrators started to shout and throw snowballs at him. A video showing the incident appeared on the Internet.

The district’s head Yevgeny Gavrilov also visited the hospital and received the same furious reaction.

On Thursday, Interfax quoted Gavrilov’s office confirming that the source of the leakage at the dump was covered with soil overnight. Despite this, no measures appear to have been taken yet.

Interestingly enough, the story of the dump in Volokolamsk didn’t actually start this week. In early March, some 5,000 people came to the streets of the town complaining of a terrible stink coming from the Yadrovo dump and demanding close the landfill. On March 8, the locals attempted to block the road leading to the dump, but the police dispersed the demonstrators and cleared the way for garbage trucks. However, the protests went on.

“My neighbors’ kid was poisoned by the bad air last week. They had to call an ambulance for him. The doctor confirmed the poisoning was caused by air from the dump,” Natalya, a resident of Volokolamsk told the Russian media outlet Meduza. “Once again we can’t let the kids play on the street, and as soon as my husband and I rush home, we try to block any gaps around the windows. Every day, when we go out in the street, we get a splitting headache almost immediately.”

On March 10, Moscow region governor Andrey Vorobyov issued an order to close the Yadrovo dump in three months. However, trucks continued to deliver garbage to the landfill, and when on the next day local resident tried to stop them 13 people were detained by the police. And despite the decision, a local court refused to close the dump.

It really seems that this landfill is rather important for the local officials.

An article by Leonid Bershidsky published in Bloomberg on March 22 can reveal who is behind children poisoning. The author claims that garbage business in Moscow is run by several influential businessmen close to the newly elected Russian president Vladimir Putin. Among them are billionaire Roman Abramovich, the son of Russia’s Prosecutor General and the son-in-law of Putin’s close friend.

Although no one can be sure that one of these names really runs the Yadrovo landfill, one thing is clear: this is a deadly business and measures must be taken immediately. How come that a country claiming to be among the world leaders puts the life and health of children at risk?

Photo: Mikhail Pochuev / TASS