Putin calls fuel spill unprecedented for Russia, Greenpeace sees $1.4 billion damage

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that the scale of the cleanup after massive fuel pollution in the Arctic was unprecedented for Russia. Greenpeace estimated the environmental damage to water in the region at $ 1.4 billion.
A huge fuel tank lost pressure on May 29 and released 21,000 tons of diesel into rivers and underground near the city of Norilsk, an incident Greenpeace compared to the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska in 1989.
"As far as I know, Russia has never had any experience in removing such large amounts of pollution from water," Putin told officials on state television.
It will take at least 10 years for biodiversity in the waters to fully return where the accident happened, the state fisheries agency said at the meeting.
The state environmental monitor plans to complete the assessment of the damage by July 1, his chief Putin said.
Vladimir Chuprov, a Greenpeace activist, said the water damage was 100 billion rubles ($ 1.44 billion), a figure higher than it should be due to the slow official response, the report said TASS news agency.
The mining giant Norilsk Nickel lives in the city of Norilsk. The company and emergency specialists collect contaminated soil and fuel from local rivers in containers.
Nornickel has already spent 5 billion rubles on the cleanup, said co-owner Vladimir Potanin. The mining giant also plans to spend 13.5 billion rubles on security checks of its remaining fuel tanks in 2020-2021.
More than 90% of the fuel from the rivers and about 70% of the contaminated soil has already been collected, said Nornickel earlier this week.
Putin had previously ordered officials to check all similar fuel depots in Russia, and they plan to complete the process by July 24, he said.
($ 1 = 69.3359 rubles)

(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova; writing by Tom Balmforth and Polina Devitt; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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