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While many people react with joy when they wake up to snow on the ground, residents of a few small towns in the Kemerovo region of Siberia reacted with horror at the seemingly post-apocalyptic scene they woke up to last week. Instead of a bright white snowy landscape, they woke up to everything covered in snow… Black snow.
What’s more, is that this isn’t the first time it’s happened here. Residents in the towns of Kiselyovsk, Leninsk, and Prokopyevsk have awoken to this particular nightmarish landscape before, as has much of the region.
Do they live in an alternate universe?
#Russia is a country of outstanding natural beauty and diversity. But the sheer lack of environmental regulations is a devastating effect for residents in #Kuzbass, where last night there was BLACK SNOW. pic.twitter.com/zMiEWBJbnh
— Khodorkovsky Center (@mbk_center) February 14, 2019
Vladimir Slivyak, a member of the Ecodefense group, said that the surreal black snowfalls happen more frequently than anyone wants to admit, but local officials say the black snow is a rare occurrence. Considering that officials in the Kuzbass town of Mysky are accused of literally painting the snow white to hide the nasty looking black and grey snow at a recreational facility where children play, their claims of its rarity seem less than honest.
Then there’s the fact that the Kemerovo region is home to one of the largest coal fields, and a number of processing plants. And they’re open pit coal mines, which cart the coal in open train cars and tracks. This allows rain and wind to carry the dust off into the ground, into the rivers, and into the air.
According to a report, Slivyak said of the black snow that:
“It’s harder to find white snow than black snow during the winter. There is a lot of coal dust in the air all the time. When snow falls, it just becomes visible. You can’t see it the rest of the year, but it is still there.”
With the Kemerovo region being the center of the country’s coal mining operation and the open pit mine accused of violating safety regulations and failing to “sufficiently filter fumes,” it’s easy to see how this could be the cause of the black snow. Local Russian officials and mine operators disagree, however.
Critics of those officials say the authorities don’t do anything and turn a blind eye “to routine violations of safety norms and regulations.” Violations apparently include open pit mines being closer to residential areas than they should be, as are the train cars and tracks used to transport the mined coal.
Eerie black snow falls over Siberian region triggering acute pollution concerns from locals. Ghostly pictures of dark snowscapes – which should be pristine white – as blame pointed at failure to filter fumes at coal plant https://t.co/yh15JjJN2n pic.twitter.com/NNJbyK6bvP
— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) February 15, 2019
One local official, deputy governor of the region, Andrei Panov, claims that multiple factors could cause the black snow such as pollution from local businesses and transportation instead of the coal mines. Anatoly Volkov, the director general of one local coal plant, claimed that a part broke in the plant that filters the air and prevents the toxic coal dust from being released. Coal dust contains toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury.
While it may be true about the broken filter, it would have had to have been broken for a long time for it to create this much black snow. This alone lends credence to the claims that authorities turn a blind eye to safety violations.
And, don’t forget about the multiple instances of residents waking up to black snow in the last few months with at least two incidents in the previous two months. And each time black snow falls on residents, they subsequently take to Twitter with videos and photos. Some are of active black snowfall, others of the aftermath.
Black snow in Kuzbass (Russia) 😱 pic.twitter.com/xSBdJGHg4U
— Yulia (@Julia1981Russia) February 14, 2019
— euronews (@euronews) February 17, 2019
— Ysabel (@WyrmStone) February 16, 2019
We also can’t forget that the incidents of various serious diseases in the Kuzbass region is much higher than the national average, and life expectancies are lower than the national average. When you factor these statistics into the mix, we must wonder if these people live in open-pit coal mining central is a coincidence.
Siberia as a whole isn’t a stranger to weird weather events. In July 2018, people living in a factory town were soaked with what they called “blood rain.” While blood rains have happened before, this incident wasn’t caused by dust as they normally are. Siberia’s blood rain, in this case, was caused by “improperly stored industrial waste [that] was caught up in a storm.”
That same month, a mysterious cloud blanketed the region and completely blocked out the sun. When it cleared, everything was covered in black soot. While the residents of these towns aren’t living in an alternate universe, they do live in Russia where environmental protections are sorely lacking.
Check out this video of Siberian residents finding that the black snow was painted white:
Featured Image: Screenshot via Twitter.