Dalnegorsk and Rudnaya Pristan, Primorye, Russia
The communities of Dalnegorsk and Rudnaya Pristan are the center of mining and metals production in the Primorye region of the Russian Far East. Lead ore was mined and processed in Dalnegorsk and transported by rail to Rudnaya Pristan for smelting. Until closure in 2006, this was the only operating primary lead smelter in Russia. Human exposures were compounded by lead concentrates spilled along the rail lines that parallel the Rudnaya River. The river and port areas on the Sea of Japan are highly contaminated from years of mine and mill discharges. Severely contaminated submarine battery casings were also scattered throughout town and used by local residents to build trails, fences, garages, and rain cisterns, and for containers to feed cattle and domestic birds. Residents grow up to 60% of their food in local kitchen gardens and dachas that are often contaminated.
Approximately 57,000 people are at risk of lead poisoning in Dalnegorsk, Rudnaya Pristan and neighboring villages. Residents have multiple health problems possibly associated with high levels of industrial pollution. Children in Rudnaya Pristan have the highest rates of respiratory problems in the region. There are abnormal levels of basophilic stippling and abnormal formation of blood cells among school-aged children in the lower Rudnaya Valley. Studies show that Rudnaya Pristan residents have 4.9 times higher rates of lung and stomach cancer, and 33 times higher rates of cancers of blood-forming tissues compared to the nearby non-industrial town of Terney.
Shipment of ore in open rail cars resulted in contamination of soil along rail lines for several kilometers.
The smelter operated with antiquated equipment, resulting in widespread contamination of the community
Soil contamination of vegetable gardens resulted in increased exposure to lead via homegrown potatoes.
Many homes had outdoor water supplies and grew a substantial amount of their own food.
Samples of local soils were taken throughout the community, including in areas where children frequently play.
Health intervention activities included remediation of school playgrounds where children spend significant amounts of time.
From 1997-2001 the TIFO team collaborated with Far East State University and Russian government scientists in several environmental investigations of the Rudnaya Valley. The studies revealed high concentrations of lead in soil, water, dust, and home-grown fruits and vegetables. Soil lead concentrations in Rudnaya Pristan and some areas of Dalnegorsk ranged between 500 and 10,000 mg/kg. Initial testing revealed that children’s blood lead levels were 8 to 20 times the maximum allowable U.S. levels. In 2006, this site was named one of the top ten most polluted places in the world and the smelter shut down soon after blood lead levels were made public.
Cleanup activities were initiated in 2007 using existing government and university institutions and funding from multiple NGOs and international agencies. The team designed and provided technical oversight for the cleanup and health response strategy. The project was implemented through the local Far East Environmental Health Fund, which reimbursed local workers to undertake remediation and health response activities. The project included a public awareness campaign, blood lead testing, and engaging local organizations, newspapers, and schools for project implementation. A blood lead monitoring and health intervention program was established through local clinics. Follow-up sampling and home visits were conducted stressing the importance of hygiene to reduce lead exposure. Soil remediation and cleanup have been accomplished at local schools, parks, playgrounds and common-use areas. About 600 children have been monitored, showing a 40% decrease in blood lead levels since initiating the program.
Journal Articles & Technical Reports
Kachur, A, Arzhanova, V, Yelpatyevsky, P, von Braun, M, & von Lindern, I. 2003. Environmental conditions in the Rudnaya River watershed—a compilation of Soviet and post-Soviet era sampling around a lead smelter in the Russian Far East. Science of the Total Environment, 303(1), 171–185.
von Braun, M, von Lindern, I, Khristoforova, N, Kachur, A, Yelpatyevsky, P, Elpatyevskaya, V, & Spalinger, S. 2002. Environmental Lead Contamination in the Rudnaya Pristan – Dalnegorsk Mining and Smelter District, Russian Far East. Environmental Research, 88(3), 164–173.