Published November 1, 2013
As a centerpiece of its Olympic bid, Russia trumpeted a "Zero Waste" program that promised the cleanest Games ever, saying that it "would refrain from dumping construction waste and rely on reusable materials," according to the AP. But on a visit last week to Akhshtyr, just north of Sochi, the AP found that state-owned Russian Railways "is dumping tons of construction waste into what authorities call an illegal landfill, raising concerns of possible contamination in the water that directly supplies Sochi."
The finding shows "how little Russia has done to fulfill its ambitious green pledges." Its $51B budget for the Olympics "contains no provisions for treating construction waste."
In a letter obtained by the AP, the Environmental Protection Agency in the area where Sochi is located told the Black Sea resort’s environment council in late August that "it had inspected the Akhshtyr landfill and found 'unauthorized dumping of construction waste as well as soil from excavation works.'" The agency said that it "had fined Russian Railways, whose Sochi project costs billions of dollars, $3,000 for the dumping." It "did not order the dump closed." Authorities confirm that Russian Railways "operates the Akhshtyr dump without a license" -- but it "would not be able to obtain one even if it tried." That is because the village "lies in an area where dumping construction waste and soil is forbidden under the Russian Water Code." Russian Academy of Sciences Geologist Boris Golubov said that "it was impossible to accurately judge the impact of the Akhshtyr dump without a chemical breakdown of the waste and a full geological survey of the rocks." He said, however, that the landfill’s location on karst "is potentially hazardous." Deputy PM Dmitry Kozak "has persistently dismissed claims that Sochi is failing on its green commitments." Speaking to reporters this year, he admitted "certain violations," but denied claims that trash still gets dumped in illegal landfills. Kozak spokesperson Ilya Dzhus said -- after being confronted with evidence of last Friday’s dumping and the tons of waste that sit in the village pit -- that "the situation in Akhshtyr is under control" (AP, 10/31