At one point Lake Karachay was considered one of the most polluted areas on Earth. In 1990 standing on the lake’s shores for just an hour would kill you, from exposure to such extreme radiation. Now this lake was not naturally full of radiation, we have the Mayak Production Association to thank. Mayak was a huge nuclear facility in Russia. For years this association was kept from the public’s knowledge, and for good reasons too (well not such good reasons, but reasons that were good for the company). This facility had multiple radioactive leaks and constantly dumped its waste into Lake Karachay. These mistakes effects thousands of people and the environment around them.
The drastic increase in radioactive levels caused, “a 21 percent increase in cancer incidence, a 25 percent increase in birth defects, and a 41 percent increase in leukemia in the surrounding region of Chelyabinsk” (grist.org). The towns and villages surrounding the area of the lake were almost destroyed because of the radiation. The Techa river, which got its water from Lake Karachay, was the source of water to many towns in the area. People were becoming severely ill, and when they ask the doctors they could not give them a true diagnosis, because the Mayak, which was the source of radiation was not public knowledge.
Like I mentioned before the company had multiple leaks and accidents. One accident caused the lake to dry up, and radioactive dust entered the air to spread the poison even further than it already had. Many people were finally evacuated after this but still too many were left to die from inhaling the radioactive air.
Finally in 2003 Mayak was shut down due to dumping radioactive waster into open water. The lake is now full of cement to prevent anymore damage to the surrounding environment. Techa river near the lake is still unsafe to consume, but there are improvements in the water more downstream in the river.
The things companies do and governments allow baffles me every day. The thing that surprised me the most was that the citizens in the nearby towns were completely unaware that they had a toxic dumping site in their backyard. Radiation causes damages to populations that last many generations. I read a book once where this same thing happened, and because the townspeople were exposed to so much radiation without knowing it, the women in the town became unable to carry children, it was a miracle if any child was born in that town. This disaster caused the town to collapse and die out.
I’m afraid that the same thing is happening to the towns near Lake Karachay, even generations later there are still mutations and rare diseases occurring in the town that cause great suffering. Those people had the right to know what was happening so close to them, because my guess would be that most of them would not have stayed. Yes that would have caused the towns to collapse, but they weren’t even on the map anyway at that time because the secret of the company would have been exposed if they had been. It would have been better if the people were given a chance to leave the dangers conditions, instead of unknowingly be poisoned all their lives.
Or even better yet, radioactive facilities should not be near enough to a population to have an effect on them. It was foolish for Mayak to locate itself in such close proximity to so many towns, and it was even more foolish of them to dump their wastes into the lakes and rivers causing even more damage. The fact the Russia had to completely destroy a lake, and entire ecosystem, to prevent further damage is disheartening. So many animals and plants lived in that area and now have no means of fresh, uncontaminated water. Where there use to be lush forest and thriving organism, there is now a cement filler whole with little life around it.