Alleged concealing information about the accident at Akhmetov’s Burshtyn thermal power plant – investigation

In early November, a large-scale accident was recorded at the Burshtyn thermal power plant near the town of Burshtyn, Ivano-Frankivsk region, Ukraine. This became known from the reporting made by journalists of the “Schemes” program (the project of “Radio Svoboda” and the TV channel “UA: Pershiy”) and NGO “Anticorruption Action Center” (ANTAC).

Drone aerial footage has revealed flooding of 10 hectares of the coal plant territory and its surroundings with liquid of dark color. According to the sources of the “Schemes” journalists and ANTAC, the ash-slag pipeline at the station broke – a network of pipes, which under pressure transports hazardous waste from coal combustion – ash and slag – mixed with water to the place for storage of station waste – ash dump. An expert analysis of water from a spill near the accident site, initiated by journalists, showed that the permissible level of arsenic was exceeded. Investigators recorded the station’s workers pouring the water into the local source of drinking water – Burshtyn Reservoir. Water from this reservoir enters local rivers, groundwaters, wells, and goes all the way to the border with Moldova.

According to the “Schemes” and ANTAC, the accident occurred at least on November 1, 2021. The film crew, which was trying to record outcomes of the accident few days later, was obstructed by people connected with the Burshtyn coal plant: first, the guards demanded that the film crew move away from the flood site, then the press service ignored the journalists’ requests for official filming of the accident. At the same time, local media reported that the station had been bomb-mined, which later turned out to be untrue.

The official report on the accident at the coal plant was made by DTEK only after the visit of the “Schemes” and ANTAC. It was stated that the industrial wastewater collector had burst, and that the accident allegedly took place on the night of November 2-3, and did not harm the environment. Then, at the place where the water from the spill was pumped into the reservoir, asphalt was laid, to which coal ash was added. It was declared to be the first road in Ukraine built using coal ash and slag wastes.

The State Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine should have inquired what really happened at the coal plant and what are the consequences for human health and the environment. Inspection arrived to the Burshtyn thermal power plant on November 11. But it was denied access to the territory of the station. After that, the inspection appealed to the National Police of Ukraine. According to investigative journalists, the Burshtyn thermal power plant has failed to accept such inspections 6 times in the last three years. One of these inspections was on July 22, 2019. According to public information, at that time the director of the station was the current Prime Minister of Ukraine Denis Shmygal.

Burshtyn TPP should have been also inspected by specialists from other agencies, in particular, by the State Energy Inspectorate – the structure under management of the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine. Three weeks after the accident, journalists recorded Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko meeting with DTEK CEO Maksym Timchenko in a cafe in Kyiv.Burshtyn TPP is part of “DTEK Zahidenergo” energy company, the beneficiary of which is Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. Half of the power units at this plant are running for exports of coal-based electricity to EU member states.

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