Moscow’s contaminated water

Anna and Veronica, the local activists, with Timohovo dump in the background

In the Moscow region, so called landfills contain over 300 mln tons of waste. In reality, those are not real landfills that should have strict maintenance requirements. Huge mountains of waste that we see here and there around Moscow are in fact city dumps. Usually they are located in former quarries where sand and clay had been mined years ago. In the 90s, Moscow dumps turned into lucrative business. Waste was brought to quarries and rammed without any sorting, decontamination or at least covering layers with soil, not to speak of isolating garbage mixture from underground water. Back in the 90s, plastic packaging first appeared in Russia. Plastic bags, boxes, bottles and stickers came to every household. From there, they made their way to city dumps. Now, almost thirty years later, Moscow authorities say that the potential of Moscow dumps has been exhausted. With it, the potential of underground water turned out to be exhausted as well. In the Moscow region, there are no places left that would receive local water of good quality.

The hardest hit area is the east, south-east and south of the Moscow region where there are tens of notorious dumps. Among them is «the pride» of the region – Timohovo dump – the biggest dump in Europe with the area of 110 hectares.

The history of Timohovo dump dates back to 40 years ago when clay was mined on this spot. Later the 30-something-deep quarry started to be filled with waste. That was biological waste, for the most part. Apart from putrefactive odor there was not much trouble with it. By the late 80s, the dump had grown and in 1989 it was about to be shut down. However, it didn’t happen in due time. And a few years later in the early 90s, control over the dump was lost completely. Criminal organizations started to bring waste not only from households, but also toxic waste from hospitals, chemical plants and even radioactive waste. As a result, the dump turned into a time bomb.

Under the pressure of millions of tons of waste, the layer of clay, that had been thinned out by mining, stopped to keep the dump leachate from getting into the water, and the toxic mixture first filled the neighboring quarries and later went deeper underground and contaminated underground water used for drinking.

Now water from 80-100 meter deep wells is forbidden for household use, let alone drinking. According to local people, tap water has the same horrible smell as the dump gas, blown by the wind and causing mass poisoning.

Some time ago, at a distance of several hundred meters wells were drilled and underground water sample were taken for lab tests. It turned out that underground water is contaminated many kilometers around the dump.

“My tap water can’t be used for washing, let alone drinking. Don’t even ask, says Andrey who lives 6 km off the dump. It comes out white and then it turns yellow”.

The wind brings the disgusting dump gas every day. It has the same stench as the tap water. Andrey has come to the dump to make sure that the smell comes from here and not from the industrial area in the neighboring town.

Veronica, a local woman, says the issue of contaminated water is never brought up in the federal media. It’s forbidden. However, everyone knows what caused such enormous environmental disaster. Veronica says all local wells are shut down and the area is getting water from the neighboring region of Vladimir.

“This is an environmental disaster of tremendous proportions, sighs Veronica. The whole area is lost forever. Since the dumps continue to function and, on top of that, we will soon have a waste incineration plant here, there’s no hope it will ever get better”.

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