Dangerous: Irkutsk Wrapped in Mercury Cloud

Peatbogs smoldering on the outskirts of the regional center contain fulminate of mercury
The peatbogs in the suburb Rabochi have been smoldering for several years already, and the peat reserve there will be quite enough for about 20 years. As we learnt from one of the readers, a former military man, the peatbogs may cause much more harm that we usually think.

As it turns out there used to be a testing ground where now the suburb Rabochi is situated; weapons produced by Irkutsk defense establishments were tested there. In particular, produce of a plant producing cartridges was one of those participating in the testing on the ground. Poisonous stuff, fulminate of mercury that never dissolves in water and is used in the defense establishment, was kept in blasting caps. If the testing ground was actually situated in the suburb Rabochi, it certainly caused serious ecological consequences to the area as being a wonderful sorbent the peat absorbed fulminate of mercury. Nowadays when the peatbogs are still smoldering it is not ruled out that the haze hanging over the central part of the city of Irkutsk may contain mercury or its compounds.

Journalists appealed to the military and historians to find out more information about the history of the testing ground. The military commandant of the Irkutsk garrison confirmed that the testing ground was actually situated in the area, but only veterans and old residents remember the fact.

Former official of the museum of local history, expert on WWII Tatyana Kosheleva tells that some time ago all information about the testing ground was classified. A veteran, now late, once told her that the order was very strict on the testing ground. People working there sometimes had to stay on the ground for several months and were not allowed to go home; workers suffered hard penalties for being late for work.

Specialist from the Geochemistry Institute Pavel Koval is studying the problem of mercury contamination. He says that some time ago a research was held in the area where the testing ground was situated during WWII. The problem was that a grove started turning yellow not far from the settlement of Plishkino situated in that area. Ecologists asked specialists from the Geochemistry Institute to conduct a research in the area as it was believed that leaves were turning yellow because of mercury contamination. However, analyses and research held in the area revealed that the phenomenon was connected not with mercury but with sulfur dioxide in the air. The mercury contents in the air were not dangerous. The specialist says that it is better to test mercury contents now if some suspicions arise in this connection. He adds, it is also recommended to conduct an inventory taking of all mercury sources that are potentially dangerous.

The symptoms of mercury poisoning are often mistaken for ordinary indisposition as people feel headache, sickness, they grow thin and nervous; when mercury poisoning is strong it strikes kidneys. The whole of the nervous system gets affected when people suffer from regular mercury poisoning. So, if mercury from the smoldering peatbogs actually poisons the citizens of Irkutsk, nobody takes the mercury effect seriously as people explain indisposition with the smoke and the heat.

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Author`s name Michael Simpson