Environmental terrorism in third world countries turning into profitable business for the Austrian holding Kronospan raised the alarm in mass media and among the top ecologists of Russia. It’s not a surprise that this will be the main topic at the annual press conference of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, which will take place this year in December.
A big environmental uproar blazed up in Russia around the Austrian factory Kronospan. People living in the towns and villages close to the factory together with environmental activists of the National Environmental Community believe that the environmental disaster is a matter of a short time. Without interference of the RF supervisory authorities, the situation is likely to develop into new protests. According to Political Lore, the Russian citizens affected by the actions of Kronospan holding, together with hundreds of mass media having informed about possible tragedy, are drafting a mass appeal to the President Vladimir Putin, which is planned to be announced at the large annual press conference of the President Vladimir Putin, which will take place on the 19th of December, as it was informed by the Kremlin press service.
Popular Russian radio targeted on large business Business FM informs (https://www.bfm.ru/news/430198) that the RF Prosecutor General’s Office has already received all the necessary files on the case, and a set of supervisory activities is expected from their part in the immediate future.
Residents of Elektrogorsk, which is located near Moscow, made a complaint to the General Prosecutor’s Office demanding to bring the officials of Kronospan Group of Companies, manufacturing chipboards, to responsibility for violation of environmental law.
This information was provided to Business FM by the Managing Partner of the law office “Sokolov, Trusov and Partners”, Fedor Trusov, who is the coordinator of the union “National Environmental Community” (NEC) having initiated the complaint.
According to him, the appeal addressed to the General Prosecutor Yuriy Chayka is signed by the members of gardeners’ non-commercial partnerships “Elochka” and “Berezka”, located in Elektrogorsk municipality of Pavlovo-Posadskiy district of Moscow region. People applied to the environmental organization for help, explaining that their settlements are on the edge of environmental disaster because of the enterprise activity. “Local residents of these settlements say that they can’t go for a walk with children, they sleep with closed windows because of toxic emissions”, — said Trusov. It is informed in the appeal to the General Prosecutor, that was provided to Business FM, that environmental activists, together with the journalists of the Internet portal “Moment of Truth”, have made an investigation of activity of all the three Kronospan enterprises located in three Russian cities: Elektrogorsk and Yegoryevsk of Moscow region, and also in Ufa.
In the preparation of the investigative movie , it was discovered that the content of formaldehydes in the discharge water around the factories in all the three cities significantly exceeds the norm, there is strong smell of chemicals, as it is said in the document.
In addition, “there is unlawful deforestation around Kronospan factories, in particular, for further seizure of territory, which is covered by local administrations and local prosecution authorities”. “We’ve found a former employee of one of the enterprises, who told us that, since the filters installed at the enterprise are very expensive, they’re often just switched off at night”, — said the attorney. He added that people complained to local authorities many times, but received only formal written answers in response.
“People are howling. Their last hope are federal authorities”, — remarked Trusov. At the same time, he says that “people perfectly understand that, of course, the enterprise won’t be shut down”, and they mainly expect that the prosecutor’s office will oblige Kronospan to install efficient sewage treatment facilities, stop spilling waste water to their settlements, and also install additional filters and a smoke exhaust pipe.
In their appeal, the appellants ask the RF General Prosecutor’s Office to inspect the activity of Kronospan enterprises in all the three cities, bring liable persons to responsibility for violation of nature protection and environmental law, and inform about procedural decisions made.
The attorney pointed out that, in his opinion, enterprise officials can be brought not only to administrative, but also to criminal responsibility under Article 246 of the RF Criminal Code (“violation of environmental norms at execution of works”). It stipulates penalty from a fine to five years imprisonment. Trusov said that local residents were preparing complaints to the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage, Russian Federal Consumer Rights Protection and Human Health Control Service, and also an appeal to the enterprise head office in Austria.
Earlier, media portal “Moment of Truth”, which is specialized in media investigations (https://moment-istini.com/news/kronoshpan-uhodi-evropeyskiy-zavod-otravlyaet-ekologiyu-rossii.html) issued a more than 20minutes long movie https://youtu.be/VX_IIIG1QUk devoted to the problem of Kronospan factory, which has been viewed by several hundred thousand Youtube users for less than a week. In this movie, local residents, environmental activists and journalists familiar with the issue explain us the gravity of the existing situation. The subtitles included into the movie are probably targeted, first of all, on the end beneficiaries of the situation, gain acquirers, to be precise…
The transcript of the video
— Living here, in this city, with Kronospan is getting impossible.
— Cause it smells awful.
— It’s not a pleasant view, and of course, it smells very bad.
— There was a dark smoke at 8 pm.
— Kronospan, go away! Kronospan, go away! Kronospan, go away!
— Please, tell me, sirs ecologists, what do you think about the situation with Kronospan in Moscow region?
— We had a two day on-site inspection in Moscow region. It stinks, people are asphyxiated.
— We just feel sorry for people, you see?
— It’s necessary to invest money instead on pumping the profits out of the enterprise. Money must be invested into ecology to avoid killing people.
— I ask the All-Russia People’s Front to provide efficient civil control, in particular, rest on public environmental inspectors. Their signals on any violations must be taken into account by the authorities, lead to specific measures.
— We have cheap labor, cheap forest and cheap gas, and they are just annihilating us.
— Of course, the sorest subject is devastation of forests.
— We are said that everything is wonderful, that it’s all right, and this mayhem goes on and on.
— The editorial team of the Moment of Truth continues the series of programs devoted to environmental problems in Russia. Today our guest is a public environmental inspector of the Russian Federal Agency for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage, Dmitriy Sopilkin. Hello, Dmitriy!
— Good afternoon!
— So, how is Yegoryevsk? Elektrogorsk? How was your trip?
— Of course, we’re impressed by what we’ve seen, by what we’ve heard.
— There are emissions, it smells terrible.
— They promised us a lot, they promised to make a new pipe at the factory, install protection and pollution control facilities, filters, and so on.
— Children have otitis from early age, they start to have allergies. To be honest, we don’t even know if all of us should leave this city.
— I know that there are a lot of oncological diseases in the city, and their number is growing. There are a lot of asthma patients including children. I know several children in our house, which means that the situation is really outstanding. I am impressed by how insolently they earn their money here.
— What is Kronospan’s business?
— Chipboards, in common terms, using chemicals: glue, different additives.
— As far as I understand, the main issue is additives that are toxic.
— We came there and we could feel this smell in the air.
— What is the smell? What is the smell of money?
— Well, it’s an unpleasant smell.
— Name it as it is
— We were at a landfill, as if we were standing at a landfill.
— Is it dirty? What about the ground? Is it poisoned or not? What is your impression? You’re a specialist after all.
— There are liquids, liquid wastes discharged directly to the soil, which is prohibited.
— How come? Does the plant discharge wastes to the soil?
— Yes, to the soil, there’s a big trench from the plant.
— So, here we are. Water discharge is discovered, coming to the dangerous slope now. Have you taken it? Is it ok?
— Yes, it’s fine.
— Do you mean they just pour wastes to the ground, being a plant that is targeted to European standards, a daughter company of a European business?
— Yes, there is a big pipe. Before inviting specialists from the Russian Federal Consumer Rights Protection and Human Health Control Service, we made a research. And we came, took samples and delivered them to the laboratory today.
— Activists of the national environmental community delivered three samples of soil and three samples of water to the laboratory. Formaldehyde concentration identified in water… So, within my memory, I see such concentration for the first time, if we don’t take technical water into consideration. If such water gets to natural water sources, it will be a huge tragedy, of course, both for nature and for people, God forbid! Let’s do a normal research and see what kind of water it is, a series of tests in order to understand that the concentration in these samples isn’t random.
— From the south part of the plant, where the enterprise wanted to grow, they requested allocation of 92 hectares of land for expansion and deforestation.
— I’m in the field adjacent to the southern part of Kronospan, and it looks as follows: 5 meter tall trees and even taller ones are cut on several dozens hectares of land. This is how it looks. Of course, it happened either last year or two years ago. Many thousands of trees.
— 5 meter tall pines and taller ones are cut on the southern part of the enterprise.
— It’s a large-scale seizure of territory?
— The situation is getting worse, and now they want to expand their enterprise.
— In order to expand, they needed territory, and they decided to cut the forest up to Gorkovskiy highway to the city, to Elektrogorsk. That is to say, in addition to smell, they’re also cutting forest and expanding production, and it will cause even more emissions.
— So, what would happen to such an enterprise if it was located in Europe and was doing the same kind of things?
— And why doesn’t it work like this in our country?
— What about local state officials? Do they cover them? Are they corrupted?
— What about Yegoryevsk?
— In Yegoryevsk, there is a huge enterprise, much bigger than the one in Elektrogorsk.
— The main source of raw material for Kronospan is wood that is used for the manufacturing of chipboard plates. Kronospan uses huge volumes of it.
-Where they don’t put out fires — then someone needs it. So you need to hide or theft of the forest, or even what may be, his criminal activities. And we breathe the air that suffocates people
— While forests are burning in Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk, we’re cutting trees under our very nose, we’re cutting the lungs of Moscow city and region.
— The editorial team has sent its “landing forces” to Ufa, where the third plant of Kronospan is located. Hello, Evgeniy! How is Ufa?
— Good afternoon, Fedor! Ufa is like a dog with two tails.
— A dog that smells what?
— Chemicals. Chemicals from Kronospan plant, from emissions of Kronospan plant.
— And what about vox populi? What do people say?
— People are sure that an environmental disaster is just a question of time.
— We’ve already had a tragedy with phenol. Kronospan is the second tragedy. And, believe me, it will be an awful tragedy.
— The main claim is that six years ago, when they started construction, it was noticed by people living in adjacent areas that some rust-colored equipment had been brought to these agricultural fields. As it was discovered later, the equipment was really rusty and burnt, from a British factory.
— People with children live here. There were children’s demonstrations, protest camp, then there was a 33 day hunger strike guarded by the police.
— When we were fighting with the construction of this factory, we had organized a protest camp, we were blocking delivery of equipment. Also, we filed multimillion suits against Kronospan corporation, which prevented them from construction. Finally, we were promised that the pipes would be equipped with nano-filters which would trap dust, and everything would be compliant with the environmental norms. In fact, 3-4 times per month it’s impossible to leave home and go for a walk with a child, it awfully smells sawdust and chemicals.
— We’re fighting so hard here! And then everybody is surprised why our children listen to Navalny and why Sakharov Square is full. Of course! For example, in our case, the laws are violated for sure by Kronospan.
— What else caught attention of Ufa environmental activists?
— Do you mean that forest is being cut?
— Yes, Kronospan needs thousands of cubic meters of wood.
— So, pardon, are they cutting trees and shit around?
— In full swing!
— What a lousy attitude to their own country, to their republic!
— Also, forest is in great danger. Why? Because, originally they said that they would be using over-seasoned trees. But, in fact, they bring round wood. Here, look, it’s not lumber at all. Commercial wood, while our population needs to write tons of applications and get piles of permissions in order to get a couple of cubic meters of wood. Here it is, our commercial timber.
— Not only it stands here unlawfully, but they’re also cutting our forest, unique Bashkir forest, trucking trees out.
— I think that in 10-20 years our region won’t have any forest at all.
— Have they shown you permission documents for the factory?
— No, for a long time, the plant had been working, so to say, in a test mode, but at full capacity.
— Is it so easy not to sign commissioning papers?
— Test mode is needed because when there is no enterprise, there is no inspection, no violations, but the products are being manufactured, sold, the factory is working.
— The money is being earned.
— The money is being earned.
— And what about filters?
— Filters can be installed later.
— Kronospan plant is located in the second-third ring of the protective sanitary zone of Ufa water supply intake, which is confirmed by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. It was a cassation ruling on our claim dated September 30, 2015, where the Supreme Court established unlawfulness of discharge of surface waste water in the second ring of the protective sanitary zone of Ufa water supply intake.
— For several years we keep requesting a state environmental expertise of Kronospan plant. But the answer is that they don’t need to undergo it. Currently, in April we observed release of waste water to soil.
— Here is the proof that waters from Kronospan go to the river. There is a passage that is here on a purpose. It is camouflaged in all possible ways not to be seen. This is how water goes from the source.
— We’re near the passage. It is cut artificially and masked with natural plants. And at that point, on October 28, waste water was discharged, and then it goes under the regional highway and after that under the pipe over there. This is where we made water tests, they were still present there for a week.
— It was 2016 when I heard it from the operations managers for the first time – the initial operations managers — they were talking, and, passing by, I heard them saying: “Lets discharge at 3 am”. And at around 3-4 am they discharge waste waters to the river over there.
— Evgeny, what impressed you most of all during this trip? What surprised you about
— Most of all I was surprised by the fact that they have no sympathy not only for people living around, but also they have little sympathy for their own workers.
— There is no ventilation, it smells formaldehyde and burned sawdust in the workshop. It’s all inside the premises, and we’re breathing it. And also, guys in the glue chamber mix glue and add dry glue powder and some other chemicals which we don’t know, they’re brought in sacks, and these guys aren’t considered to be working in a hazardous industry. Also, at the laboratory, once a day they do tests for formaldehyde concentration in plates, and neither are they considered to be working in hazardous conditions.
— The enterprise is on a low level not only in terms of compliance with the environmental law, but also in terms of its attitude towards employees.
— If they treat their workers like that, what can we expect with regard to people living near Kronospan?
— They say that the factory hasn’t been commissioned yet, but there is bad smell.
— It happened in winter, we all woke up in the morning, it was in March, and snow was yellow all around, there were one meter wide stripes in all the gardens.
— It looks as if it’s wild Africa here with no people at all.
— These are emissions discharged right to our village – they are black. The most interesting thing is that if it’s something light, there is white smoke, but here it’s all black.
— This factory breaks many laws: Land Allocation Law, Water Code, Environmental Law, absolutely all the laws. It’s a genocide against population. What’s all this?
— Most important of all is that they can’t reach out to anybody, nobody listens to them: neither authorities, no Kronospan managers, everybody hides their faces.
— What about the Public Prosecution Office?
— The Public Prosecution Office writes formal answers and keeps silent.
— Is it again about bribes? Corruption? Do they cover them again?
— How can we do without it? It’s a Russian, so to say, peculiarity. This is how people do business in Russia.
— Which other actions have been taken by the editorial team?
— The national environmental community was working with us. They were in Ufa with us, and they’ve taken samples of soil and water, which we sent for tests.
— We’re taking soil samples. Today is the 11th of November, 2019, 1 pm, we are around 200-300 meters from Kronospan factory. Activists of the national environmental community have taken the samples.
— Do you know what the national environmental community going to do about the oncoming environmental disaster?
— Yes, they’re going to apply to the Public Prosecution Office, to supervisory authorities, to get the problem solved, because if it’s not solved now, early or late it will explode.
— Evgeny, you’re right back from the round table organized by Kronospan management after the scandals in the environmental sector. How was it?
— People expressed many claims.
— Do they recognize problems?
— No, in fact they don’t.
— What about smell – should it stink?
— Well, these are production side effects.
— Dear colleagues, I told you last time and I repeat again that this equipment is installed in compliance with the Russian norms and rules. The design wasn’t made by Kronospan, it was made by the former enterprise.
— These are correct and beautiful words, nobody argues
— It’s a fact!
— But the fact is that the city and countryside residents are suffocating. This is the fact. The fact is that there is dust in the air, tons of dust. You see? This is the fact.
— I worked a lot with formaldehyde, air extraction system of the pressing machine. In our case formaldehyde comes from the pressing machine, together with hot resin. It’s impossible to install filters there, because resin is crystallized. If you install the only thing that can be offered to you, which is electrical filters, they’ll work for a month. And if you replace filters every month, you’ll go to pieces, if you don’t know it. I talked to Germans at a fair, and I asked them: “How do you deal with this issue?” And they said: “That’s why we place production in third countries”.
— Excuse me, with all my respect, I’d like to say that the German equipment installed there isn’t comparable with the equipment that was used earlier, when even a chipping machine was manually fed with logs, pardon.
— Were there any incidents at the press conference?
— Well, there was one curious point. So, the conference goes on for around 20 minutes, people express their claims, and then a man stands up and says
— In principle, I’m, so to say, satisfied with the work being done at the enterprise.
— Bravo! (applause, noise and shouting)
— And I respect the same. But I ask you not to speak on behalf of all people. We have contrary opinions.
(noise and shouting)
— Because you’re an interested person.
— Let’s move on to the next question. Marina Lvovna.
— I have a very big question.
— On which topic?
— Have you noticed, I don’t know this gentleman…
— Neither do we know him
— But how badly you treat another opinion. You should respect other people’s opinion.
— Of course, we respect the rights… (noise and shouting).
— We’ll include this episode to our movie, of course, to have also this kind of an opinion, that there are people who are allegedly happy with Kronospan’s work, who stand up, say it directly and then leave the room and this round table right away.
— That’s great!
— And there was another question which slightly confounded Kronospan’s director.
— Didn’t he have an answer well prepared in advance?
— Well, judging by the answer, he didn’t.
— Here is the wood shredding we discussed. They are here, beside the pavement, along the kerbside. How shall adults, senior people and children breathe it? Please, tell us why you have the right to disturb our favorable environment, thereby violating the Constitution of the Russian Federation? And how shall we breathe? We don’t understand. Please, explain us. Thank you.
— I’m not going to explain anything about chips, because it’s a coarse fraction, and it has nothing to do with breathing. Excuse me, but chips can fall from a truck carrying chips.
— Do you see that it’s in a yard? I’ve shown you the pavement.
— Yes, along the road.
— Near a residential house.
— It’s a fitting reply to a question for which there was no answer prepared in advance.
— There is a saying that works well in this case: “Silence is golden”.
— The editorial team of the Moment of Truth believes that a situation like the one around Kronospan factory must be resolved in one way or another: with the help of mass media, public activists, public environmental organizations. It’s intolerable that people around the enterprise not only can’t breathe, but also there is a direct threat to their lives. It doesn’t have to be this way. We’ll take all the actions and go to multiple bodies to ensure that the situation around Kronospan come to the end.