The threat of an environmental disaster is growing in the town of Shchelkovo in the Moscow Region. The Shchelkovo Agrokhim plant, the largest producer of pesticides for agriculture, has been in flagrant violation of environmental and industrial safety requirements for the past few years.
Today Shchelkovo Agrokhim produces about 80 pesticides, which, according to the classification, are the most dangerous to the environment. In 2020, the company produced about 30,000 tons of pesticides that certainly had an impact on air, wastewater and soil pollution.
At the same time, the hazardous chemical plant is located within the city of Shchelkovo, with the of population 130,000 people. However, it does not comply with the sanitary and environmental requirements of the 500-meter safety zone from residential buildings.
Moreover, to avoid additional control by Rostechnadzor, Shchelkovo Agrokhim registered only one hazardous production facility with the agency, which was classified as the second hazard class by the enterprise. This license allows placing no more than 200 tons of highly toxic substances on the site at a time. Meanwhile, the annual volume of pesticide production at Shchelkovo Agrokhim, as previously noted, is about 30,000 tons, and the volume of hazardous raw materials used for this requires registration of production facilities under the first class of hazard.
The history of the industry knows a sufficient number of examples of large-scale industrial accidents and emergencies with the release of chlorine, ammonia, dioxin, methyl isocyanate, which were accompanied by significant casualties, including among residents of nearby settlements.
Chlorine and ammonia are poisonous asphyxiating gases, severe poisonings with which can end in death or severe disability. There are numerous examples of accidents with such consequences around the world, including in Russia.
Dioxin and methyl isocyanate are the most dangerous and toxic. The most famous example of a dioxin release is the accident in Seveso, Italy, in 1976. Only 1.75 kilograms of dioxin were released into the atmosphere, but the total area of contamination was more than 17 square kilometers. At the same time, the fight to decontaminate the area lasted for eight years and was very time-consuming. Although no one died at the time, many residents suffered severe skin diseases for life.
Methyl isocyanate is the same toxic substance that was involved in one of the worst industrial disasters in the world at the pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, in 1984. The accident killed 2,259 people at once, and a total of 20,000 people were left disabled for life.
Accidents involving the release of toxic and flammable substances that mix with the air to form clouds have the most severe consequences. Such emissions can drift considerable distances up to 50 km and extend beyond the boundaries of a hazardous production facility.
A terrible tragedy has already occurred at Shchelkovo Agrokhim. In 2017, a fire broke out in a warehouse with highly toxic active ingredients for the production of pesticides and agrochemicals. Emissions into the atmosphere exceeded the maximum permissible norms by 1,000 times, but no sanctions were imposed on the company at the time.
In the current difficult geopolitical realities, Shchelkovo Agrokhim manages to grossly violate the requirements of anti-terrorist security of a hazardous production facility. More than fifty legal entities are registered at its address, storing toxic and highly toxic substances in small quantities in the company's storage areas. It is very difficult to control such a number of business entities.
The scary word “pesticides,” of which mass use environmentalists speak against, is a wide range of chemicals aimed at protecting plants from diseases, weeds and pests. Once in the tissues of any living organisms, pesticides linger in them for a long time, causing disease and can even lead to death. Pesticides have been shown to be a high risk of cancer, negatively affect the cardiovascular system, and increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. These pesticides, even in small quantities getting into the human body, cause endocrine diseases, as well as developmental disorders in children. They are the strongest allergens.
Of course, it is hard to imagine modern agriculture without pesticides. Competent use of pesticides ensures high crop yields and increases the level of food security in Russia. Compliance with pesticide circulation norms guarantees sustainable development of the Russian economy.
The way pesticides are handled at Shchelkovo Agrochem raises great concerns. Perhaps, it is time for supervisory and law enforcement authorities to pay close attention to the company's compliance with federal legislation on the transportation, production, storage, handling and disposal of highly toxic chemicals and conduct an urgent unscheduled inspection at Shchelkovo Agrokhim, involving the General Prosecutor's Office and federal supervisory bodies such as the Federal Service for Supervision of Transport (Rostransnadzor,) Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor,) Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service of Russia (Rostechnadzor,) Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage (Rosprirodnadzor,) and Russian Federal State Agency for Health and Consumer Rights (Rospotrebnadzor.)