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Satellite images help

Participants of the "Oil patrol" were looking for spills in the Usinsk region using satellite images

On the first day of the project "Greenpeace Russia" in the village of Parma under Usinsk, volunteers and activists found several uncleaned oil spills. It became clear from the results of the "Oil patrol" — a visual survey of the territory. The monitoring results were listed in the special journal. It is planned to construct a map of the Usinsk region spills based on this journal.

Photo: Maxim Polyakov

“Is everyone here? Let's start!”

Shortly before leaving the camp safety officer explains the participants of the "Oil patrol" rules once again.

“There is a chief in the group, and if he says something, everyone should listen to him; six people are going to search for oil spills on the first day of the camp.”

The instructor shows and tells about a special horn that has an important role — to scare away wild animals. People whether in jest or earnest remember their previous encounters with bears. The second indispensable thing is a flare, to give a signal if it’s necessary. Employee of "Greenpeace" reminds about the emergency numbers, and then two cars drive to the side of the oil field.

* * *

There is a specialist on GIS Vasily Yablokov among the participants of the patrol. He is engaged in space environmental monitoring of areas of production and transportation of petroleum products. In other words, he determines whether there is a spill with the help of satellite images.

He shows three images: one of them was made in September of last year, and the other two — in July of 2014.

“I held training for the volunteers, told them about the images and how to work with them. I have shown what the direct and indirect signs of spills were. Then volunteers with my help defined places with oil. We made ​​a route through these points,” Vasily Yablokov says.

At the first point we are met by a local guide. A man of 50 years offers us to go to the river Kolva. Based upon the images, there is sludge and litter.

“We go to the place of a low-quality restoration,” Vasily Yablokov says.

The group is coming to the river, but there is no visible trace of the spill. Volunteers touch the black ground. But it is not oil.

“We drove over the bridge and saw booms on the river,” volunteers turn to him.

“They are from ice till ice, regardless of whether there is oil or not,” he says.

Participants of the patrol fix coordinates and write the results of visual inspection in a special notebook: a lot of litter and suspicious film near the shore. We go further.

* * *

At the second point we find a huge puddle of oily liquid. Volunteers try to measure it by eye: approximately 15 meters in width and 80 in length. As the guide says, the spill occurred about two years ago.

One of the participants puts on a glove and checks the consistency of the liquid.

“We can also check with H2S-detector to measure levels of hydrogen sulfide,” Vasily Yablokov says.

Participants of the patrol walk around the "oil puddle" for some time, record data and get into the cars.

We drive to another place.

“There was a spill last fall. Here and over the hill, there is also a lake,” the guide shows.

People wander to conduct a visual inspection.

Last year, the wing door valves were broken here, after that the oil got to the soil. An attempt was made to remove it — traces of cars on the ground — but it was incomplete.

Volunteers throw stones into the "puddle". However, splashes are not such as if there was water. It’s a very viscous liquid, a trace remains on the surface.

“Yes, there is a film about that big,” one of the participants shows about 10 centimeters.

A detailed description of the spill is logged again.

* * *

At another point, we find a few barrels with the logo of "LUKOIL". Our guide explains that the remains of the pipeline are evacuated here.

“Three or four days a vacuum truck came here,” man points to the fresh traces of a large lorry. “There was a pumping-out.”

According to him, pumping-out of the remaining liquid is happening with technological violations.

“There must be a bunding area [natural barrier made of earth, which will not allow the oil to flow beyond]. And only after that a pumping-out can be done. And without a bunding area oil can be spilled,” he says.

“And how many of these points with spills are here?”

“No one can say,” our guide says.

“Well, today we observed a small area, but found so many spills.”

“This is a big lot. Spills are at every step at the fields.”

“This is an understatement!” our driver sums up. “There is a total disaster.”

Our car returns to the camp.

Max Polyakov, «7x7»


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