Russian authorities have arrested the head of one of the units of a thermal power plant in Siberia after 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled from the facility above the Arctic Circle, seeping into the soil, two rivers, and a lake downstream.
The Krasnoyarsk Krai regional court on June 4 ordered Vyacheslav Starostin, head of the plant's workshop, into pretrial detention until July 31.
He was charged with violating environmental regulations and negligence.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered a state of emergency to deal with the consequences of the spill, which occurred near the industrial city of Norilsk on May 29.
The plant is owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, the world's leading nickel and palladium producer, which said the leak was caused when pillars supporting a storage tank sank due to the thawing of permafrost soil.
Greenpeace Russia said the accident was the "first accident of such a scale in the Arctic."
Photos showed crimson waters in the Daldykan and Ambarnaya rivers, which feed the Lake Pyasino.
A spokesman for Russia's Rosrybolovstvo state fishing agency, Dmitry Klokov, told Kommersant daily that diesel fuel entered the lake after drifting ice overnight broke the booms that had been installed on the rivers to contain the leakage.
It will take at least 10 years for the local environment to recover, according to Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Ecology, Yelena Panova.
"The situation is very complicated, because we are talking about the Arctic...We need to remove [the fuel] but there are no roads, no reservoirs. We can't burn [the fuel] because it might produce toxic substances," Panova said.
Russian energy giant Gazprom Neft announced its teams had joined the operation to clean up the spill.
Norilsk, an isolated city of 180,000 people built around Norilsk Nickel, is constructed on permafrost and its infrastructure is threatened by melting ice caused by climate change.
"This year, we had an abnormally early summer...Considering the fact that hundreds of buildings were built on permafrost, we must think about security now,” said Maksim Mironov, the head of Norilsk's Development Agency.
“We must realize that global warming is real and that the permafrost is different than it used to be," Mironov added.