02.02.2006
POISONING ... IT HAS NOT BEEN PROVEN

February 2, 2006, Priurale

During the last 5 years, arguments have continued surrounding the resettlement of the Berezovka residents from the impact zone of the Karachaganak field. From time to time, the debate has gained new strength and involved new participants. Following the publication of the article Poisoning! It Has Been Proven, in Uralskaya Nedelya, a new impetus took hold and the conflict developed further. Now, in addition to public organisations, local authorities and authorised environmental protection agencies that are involved include the Ministry of Healthcare, the General Prosecutor, Senate Deputy R.S. Akhmetov. Prior to the release of this article, letter no 4, dated December 9, 2005 as signed by Ms. Anosova and R. Khusainova and the employees of the international public environmental organisation known as Crude Accountability K. Waters and A. Knizhnikova, this information had been sent to the national mass media, the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group, the World Bank and others. It did not stop there however, and the circle of participants continued to expand. This is the usual path for finding democratic solutions to problems. This is only good in the event that the participants in the process do not seek to confuse the public and only demand those benefits from the state that are stipulated in the legislation. In the opposite case, the process amounts to an unreasonable waste of money, health, personal and working time.

The article that was entitled, Poisoning! It Has Been Proven, began with the words: The population of the Burlin district was afraid of this, they suspected it, and now it is a proven fact. The results of independent lab research of air samples taken in the Berezovka village of the Burlin district have confirmed the presence of 25 toxic substances... In order to confirm the truth of these words, the author referred to a table (on page 10). The table outlined the oncentration of harmful chemical substances in the air samples that were taken in Berezovka and their toxic impact on the human body (the Agency of Toxic Substances, California, USA), provided to the newspaper by international NGO, Crude Accountability. To the ignorant reader for whom the article was intended, these numbers were impressive and convincing. Yes, it is being poisoned, destroyed. But following a more detailed study of the table, certain specialists discovered some small inaccuracies. Once these were removed, a different situation emerges, leading to an opposite conclusion. The chief inaccuracy is the fact that in column 3, where the unit of measurement was mg/m3, the actual concentration of pollutants were provided in micrograms, which are units that are a thousand times less than one mg. These appeared to increase the numbers by 1,000 times, as the concentrations that were given in micrograms were compared to the MPC, as shown in columns 6 and 7 in milligrams. Naturally, with such method of comparison, the MPC will be exceeded by tens, hundreds or even thousands of times. If the comparison is done correctly in the same units however (mg/m3), there is no excess of the MPC for any of these pollutants.

Lets take the concentration of methylene chloride as one example, which was found in a sample of air by activists on August 29, 2005. The actual concentration of methylene chloride is 8.8 micrograms/m3, which totals 0.0088 in mg/m3. Compare that 0.0088 mg/m3 with the MPC, which is 8.8 mg/m3 (and not 0.01 mg/m3, as shown in column 7). The comparison demonstrates that the concentration of methylene chloride in the air of Berezovka air is at 0.001 of the MPC (0.0088:8.8). A comparison needs to be made with the maximum one-time MPC, since the table shows the results of analysis for one-time samples that were gathered over various days. In order to compare these with the average daily MPC, which are lower than the maximum one-time indicators, it is necessary to determine the actual average daily concentrations of pollutants, averaging no less than 3 samples per day at certain intervals.) In our case however, even a comparison with the average daily MPC (0.01 mg/m3) shows that the concentration of methylene chloride in the Berezovka atmosphere is 0.88 MPC (0.0088:0.01).

The comparison of the actual concentrations of other pollutants as shown in the table with ecological norms (maximum one time MPCs) also proves that the MPC has not been exceeded in Berezovka. The maximum actual concentration of sulphur carbon in the table was at 0.013 mg/m3, with a maximum one time MPC of 0.03 mg/m3. Toluene was at 0.017 mg/m3 with a MPC of 0.6 mg/m3. Acryl nitrile was measured at 0.02 mg/m3 with a MPC of 0.03 mg/m3. Hydrogen sulphide was recorded at a level of 0.0059 mg/m3 with an MPC of 0.008 mg/m3. Aceton was 0.065 with a MPC of 0.35 mg/m3 (on the table, an incorrect number was given - 0.05 mg/m3). Xylol was present at a level of 0.021 mg/m3 (on the table Xylol was given in an unclear form without notes) with an MPC of 0.2 mg/m3. 1,2,4-threemethylbenzol was present at a level of 0.02 mg/m3 with a MPC of 0.04.

Thus, none of the pollutants as shown in the table are in excess of the MPC. On what grounds can one claim, as in an article authored by Crude Accountability and the Berezovka initiative group that the population of the Burlin district, ”was afraid of this, they suspected it, and now it is a proven fact?”. The results of independent lab research of the air samples taken in the Berezovka village of the Burlin district have confirmed the presence of 25 toxic substances...

The trick was that the statement only mentioned the presence of 25 toxic substances in the Berezovka air, and they implied the presence of concentrations that are deadly for people. The majority of readers perceived the situation like this, and this was demonstrated by the public unrest and indignation at state agencies. The dangerous was enhanced by the fact that the table described the negative impact of these pollutants on human health. Column 4, which describe hazard levels that are used in the US was aimed at the same thing, although these norms do not have any relevance for us. Moreover, the authenticity of the data is doubtful, because the laboratory research results were obtained with violations of ecological protection legislation and the laws of the RK entitled, On unity of measurement dated June 7, 2000 No 53 and On technical regulation dated November 9, 2004 No 602-II.

On the basis of such irrefutable data, the article’s authors charged KPO, the state and the special authorised agencies of fraud, incompetence and genocide. One citation from the article read: There is a suspicion that KPO and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources possess such information, but have hidden it from the public and employees. The state ecologists and KPO showed only hydrogen sulphide in their monitoring, and have always stated that the maximum permissible concentrations have not been exceeded. This is an ungrounded and false statement. The information on the results of the environmental monitoring in Berezovka is open and accessible to everyone.

In addition to special authorised agencies, the monitoring is also provided to the Akimat of the Berezovka rural district and is published in the district mass media. Obscuring such data on the part of state officials is punishable by law. Were the authors of the article able to name these people? The monitoring data in Berezovka is provided not with one, as the article indicated, but with 5 different compounds - hydrogen sulphide, methyl-mercaptan, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon oxide. These are the compounds that make up the source of pollution in the air of Berezovka from the production facilities of KPO.

Another citation from the article said: Moreover, it is for the first time that the local population has gained access to the information from the American Agency of Toxic Substances on the harm that these toxic substances cause humans. Who was supposed to be hiding this information? Such data is readily available in many textbooks on chemistry and ecology. The impact of the pollutants on human health has been described by domestic sanitary and medical institutions, and our citizens should not need to expect help from American agencies on these issues. Moreover, KPO has equipped every village near the field with a notice board describing the toxic impact of hydrogen sulphide and other pollutants, and procedures have been created in the event of an accident. The entire article is characterised by such misleading information. Every paragraph distorts facts or provides incorrect interpretation of events. The end the article described the death of one Berezovka resident, who was allegedly given an incorrect diagnosis of a spleen disorder. Once again however, it was implied that death was caused as a result of the catastrophic ecological situation in Berezovka. In addition, the Berezovka population has been tested many on many occassions by various medical institutions, and the results did not reveal any exacerbation of their health as compared to the residents of other villages of the Burlin district.

In May 2004, the population of the Berezovka village was tested by specialists at the Asfendiyarov Kazakh National State Medical Institute. According to the results of the testing, the morbidity rate for Berezovka residents was at 57,222.1 people, while the district average is 72,300.8 people per 100,000. According to the Burlin district regional medical association, the birthrate in Berezovka grew from 11.2% in 2002 to 19% in 2004, and death rate reduced from 23 to 18 cases. The only thing that we cannot object to in the article, were the results of a survey of the Berezovka population that was conducted by Russian specialists. With respect to the people’s opinions, when asking ourselves honestly, what residents of any village would not want to move to the city, on the condition of receiving full compensation for their property, the provision of housing and employment in their new location? The answer would be the same anywhere as it was in Berezovka. While reading the article, it leads to the conclusion that it was aimed at confusing the public and amounts to a falsification of the true situation in Berezovka.

The basis of this falsification is as follows:

• The categorical, and at the same time groundless charge of KPO being involved in the destructive pollution of the air in Berezovka with 25 pollutants. This list of pollutants could be found in any village. The source of pollution is not only production facilities, but also historical pollution, the economic activity of residents themselves and others. Why not add here, synthetic surface active substances, produced during washing and which also can cause cancer. And tobacco smoke, which contains deadly nicotine, carbon monoxide, which is produced everywhere when any fuel is burnt, a gas that causes death even in small concentrations. Dioxines, organic pollutants, nitrates, nitrines, hundreds of these exist in the environment of any village.

• The disparity in the quantity of the variables with the unit of measurement in column 3. In this column, the unit was listed in mg/m3, while the indicators of the quantity of the air pollution in Berezovka was listed in micrograms, that is actual pollution was increased by 1,000 times.

• The disparity in the listed quantity indicators with the units of measurement in column 3. In this column, for all pollutants, with the exception of acrylonitril and hydrogen sulphide, the zero integers were not shown, but rather commas alone were given. Thus, for an inattentive reader, the concentration of pollutants would be perceived without zeros, which increases their value by 10 times. The reduction in column 7, the MPC for certain compounds created the impression of a high pollution level in the Berezovka air. In regards to methylen chloride, the MPC dropped by 880 times. Rather than 8.8 mg/m3, it was given as 0.01 mg/m3. in terms of acetone, the MPC was reduced by 7 times. Instead of 0.35 mg/m3, it was given in 0.05 mg/m3. With regards to 1,2,4-threemethylbenzol, the MPC was reduced by 10 times. Rather than 0.015 mg/m3, it was listed as 0.15 mg/m3. (The MPC is specified in normative document as the MPC in the atmosphere. Hygiene norm No 3.02.036.99, as approved by the decree of the Chief Sanitary Doctor of the RK dated 02.06.1999 no 7).

• Deliberately instigating unrealistic fears over the concentrations listed in columns 8,9 and 10 on the table, where the negative impact was described. The majority of chemical substances, under certain conditions have toxic qualities in respect to living organisms. Their toxic characteristics would be relevant if the concentrations exceeded the MPC of Kazakhstan. In the absence of an excess of the MPC, this information was simply a means to scare readers.

For the fifth year, the illegal demands on the part of the Berezovka initiative group and the foreign NGO, Crude Accountability, in addition to causing public tension, obstruct the full-scale productivity on the part of the population along with its social economic development. Authorised national and special agencies have condemned the initiators of the resettlement for their groundless demands. The situation is not changing however. It is time to close this issue and come focus on constructive solutions to problems surrounding the welfare, social economic development and improvement of living standards.

This article was contributed by R.H. Suerbayev, the head of West Kazakhstan Oblast Regional Department of Environmental Protection.