Prepared by Emma Solomatina, Izvestia, 2000
For the past 20 years or so experts of the Institute of Industrial Ecology Problems of the North of the RAS Kola Research Center have been conducting observations of the fish populations in lakes on the Kola Peninsula. In a recent interview the head of this project- Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy, Tatyana Moiseenko, had this to say about these studies:
The fragile ecological balance established over the centuries in the Far North is no more. As things stand there today, oil and coal extraction, iron and steel factories as well as thermal and atomic power stations located in this region dump into the local lakes and other bodies of water vast quantities of industrial wastes. As a result local fish species, which had been thriving in what used to be absolutely crystal clear water, have been swept away with a torrent of pollution-rising water acidity, mixed with toxic substances of all kinds and heavy metals. And the fish populations of the area have all been dangerously affected.
Our researchers have investigated more than five thousand fish species, mainly the white fish, breeding in the lakes of Imandra, Umbozero, and Lovozero which have all been exposed to wastes discharged by ore-dressing and concentration plants, copper-nickel factories and also to hot water from the Kola Atomic Power Station. The results of these studies have been really discouraging. The most common ailment of the local fish bears the scientific name of nephrocalcinosis-which stands for kidney stones (such kidneys often look like sacs full of pebbles). The disorder is caused by the pollution of water with heavy metals, mainly nickel.
In bodies of water polluted by mining plants the picture is even more depressing with high levels of poisons, like strontium and fluorine, which cause in fish osteoporosis and scoliosis as a result of calcium insufficiency in bones which makes them brittle and deformed.
What is more, industrial wastes have also been identified as the cause ofher-maphroditism and researchers have described, for example, a white fish sample within which both sex glands possessed the same anomaly Close to its head one third of the body was occupied by a male testis, followed by a female ovary which gave way, closer to the tail, to another male testis. This hermaphrodite also had a range of other anomalies like a flabby heart, a diseased liver and lesions of skin and gills.
And the paradox of the situation consists in the fact that it is these foci of industrial pollution which attract swarms of mosquitoes and worms feeding on all kinds of organic wastes. And this abundance of "fodder" lures the fish. The fish feast on the poisoned insects and perish with full bellies with their place being immediately taken up by others of their kin.
In the face of what looks to be an endless ecological drama a vengeful idea crosses one's mind: maybe the current ebbing away of industrial production on the Kola Peninsula is all for the better? The quality of water in the local rivers and lakes is really getting better!
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