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7. Dzerzhinsk, Russia

Country: Russian Federation
Location: Dzerzhinsk, Russia


There are thousands of chemicals polluting the area, over 150 of which have been identified as deadly and dangerous. The chemicals are remnants of Sarin, VX Gas, and other chemical weapons. Other pollutants include lead and phenols.

Area Affected

The town of Dzerzhinsk, population 300,000 is of immediate concern, but other local towns depend on water which is on the brink of being contaminated by the rising waters around Dzerzhinsk.


"The Most Chemically Polluted City in the World"

It's a special town that makes it into the Guinness Book of World Records as "The Most Chemically Polluted City in the World". Dzerzhinsk currently holds this auspicious honor, and with good reason. During the years of the Cold War Dzerzhinsk was a secret city pumping out massive quantities of deadly chemical weapons for the Soviet Union.The city is no longer secret, and the Soviet Union has fallen, but several factories still produce toxic chemicals and the people live with the legacy of pollution that is left.

Between 1930 and 1998 over 300,000 tons of chemical waste was improperly disposed of, turning the local waters into a white sludge laced with deadly toxins, among which is phenol, which can lead to acute poisoning and death very quickly. The levels of phenol in the local water are 17 million times above safe levels. The area is truly, and devastatingly desecrated.

People, Animals, Plants and Waterways Effected

Much of the toxic waste dumped over the years has gone directly into the water. This has lead to local waters becoming a white sludge waste, with toxin levels millions of times higher than is safe. Because many of the factories in the area are also shut down, less water is being used than before. This means that water levels are rising in the Dzerzhinsk area, creating a situation where the toxic water could spill into the Oka River Basin, which provides water to thousands of people in surrounding towns. If the water were to spill over it would release massive quantities of arsenic, mercury, lead and dioxins into the drinking water of these people.

Within Dzerzhinsk itself the death rates are astonishing. A doctor at the local hospital reported that the death rates are 2.6 times the birth rates. If 6 to 8 babies are born in an hour, then 15 to 18 people die. But the people who are dying are far from old. The average lifespan for a man in Dzerzhinsk is 42 years, and a woman can expect to live 47 years. The cemetary is full of those who died before 40. Women also report that their men are lackluster, and have no sex drive.

One of the main pollutants in the area, phenol, is so toxic that is has been used as a quick and efficient method of execution. It only takes about one gram to kill a grown human being. Imagine what the high concentrations of phenol in the waters could do if released.

Clean up Activities

No concerted clean up activities have taken place in Dzerzhinsk. Some small efforts focused on individual factories have taken place, but this is simply plucking a grain of sand off of the beach. Recently a non-government organization in concert with the Nizhniy Novgorod municipal government (a nearby town) have created a steering committee to determine the necessary steps to clean up the Dzerzhinsk area, but they are still working on a plan. The Blacksmith Institute recently helped fund two water treatment plants in nearby villages with contaminated water supplies, but all of these little efforts really don't address the large problem at hand. A viable solution has yet to be found.

Despite obvious evidence, local Dzerzhinsk officials deny that there is any environmental catastrophe in the area.

How You Can Help

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Submitted by cennywenny on Sep 2, 2008