Despite promises from City Hall, local officials outside Moscow avoid declaring a state of emergency because of air pollution
On Friday, officials from Russia’s Federal Emergency Management Agency started issuing respirators and masks to residents in Volokolamsk, in response to air pollution from the local “Yadrovo” landfill, which has engulfed the city in hydrogen sulfide. Emergency workers are also making doctors available to locals to answer any questions about the health risks during the city’s garbage crisis.
On Thursday night, several thousand people protested outside the Volokolamsk district administrative building, demanding that local officials declare a public health emergency. The city’s mayor, Pyotr Lazarev, and the newly appointed head of the district, Andrey Vikharev, addressed the crowd and promised to initiate this process on Friday. So far, however, emergency management workers have only declared a “high alert.” Since March 22, schools in Volokolamsk have opened two hours later than normal because of air pollution that sent dozens of children to the hospital in mid-March.
What happens in a “high alert”? In addition to the masks (which still haven’t reached Volokolamsk’s schools), emergency management crews will step up their monitoring of the city’s air quality and start drafting an evacuation plan.
On March 29, Volokolamsk district head Andrey Vikharev reported that the level of hydrogen sulfide in local air was 12 times above what's considered safe. Regional FEMA officials promptly denied this information, saying that its sensors hadn’t recorded any new excesses of harmful gases in the area. Demonstrators accuse these officials of concealing the true levels of hydrogen sulfide in their air. Vikharev got his job when Moscow’s governor fired his predecessor in response to protests against the garbage crisis.