Federal investigators in Russia have launched a criminal case in response to the environmental disaster in Kamchatka that’s polluted the waters of Avacha Bay and decimated local marine life. Officials are investigating the incident as pollution of the marine environment and a violation of Russia’s rules for handling environmentally hazardous materials. If convicted, perpetrators face penalties ranging from small fines to as many as five years in prison.
Russia’s Investigative Committee reported on Wednesday that initial samples collected in Kamchatka’s coastal waters contained “a pollutant similar in consistency to industrial oil or some other substance containing oily components.” Officials say they are investigating all possible sources of the pollution, including landfills bordering Avacha Bay and coastal areas where pesticide supplies are buried.
Regional officials in Kamchatka have offered three theories to explain the polluted waters: industrial pollution, natural hazards, or seismic activity.
Based on samples recovered from Avacha Bay, scientists reported earlier this week that pollution has wiped out 95 percent of the local marine life.