Olympic oops: Russia's games aren't as 'zero-waste' as promised
Construction waste for the Sochi Olympic village has been dumped into an illegal landfill.
Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 12:19 PM
With less than 100 days until the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia has created an Olympic-sized problem for itself, something that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Back in 2010 auditors, opposition politicians and other experts warned that Sochi — the Black Sea-bordering town hosting the upcoming games —would be an ecological disaster. The town's landfills were all illegal and most of its sewage was dumped — untreated — right into the Black Sea, sometimes just a few hundred feet from the popular resort town's beaches. And that was before construction on the games' arenas, hotels and other necessities began. "At the peak of construction, we will have about 5 million tons of garbage with no place to legally utilize it," auditor Mikhail Odintsov warned that year.
Nonetheless the Russian Federation pledged that the Sochi Games would be an "Olympic Games without waste." The Zero Waste program promised to recycle all raw waste and reduce other waste generated in preparation for the games. The organizing committee held several seminars beginning in 2009 to come up with plans to reduce the construction waste, including creating "mobile systems for recycling waste."
Well, here's the thing: an investigation by the Associated Press has found that tons of construction waste are still being dumped into an illegal landfill. Not only that, the waste has the potential to contaminate the local water supply.
The dumping was done by Russian Railways, the state-owned rail monopoly, which is building a highway and railway between Sochi and the nearby airport. The AP obtained a letter written by the region's environmental protection agency this past August that identified the illegal dumping. Russian Railways was fined the equivalent of $3,000 — but the dump was not ordered close, even though it lies within in a protected waterway zone. Agency officials did not comment to the AP, but the press office blamed the dumping on a subcontractor.
Although officials say the dumping has stopped, local villagers said the dump site is three times the size of a football field and confirmed that crews continue to dump more waste into it night and day. "Water from here will be contaminating Sochi’s fresh water springs for the next 10 to 15 years," one activist told the AP.
You can see footage of the dump in this AP video:
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