Environmental Disasters: 4 of the Worst in History

Whilst the modern world is trying to be more environmentally conscious and be greener with shifts to renewable energies – it wasn’t always like that. And, sometimes, accidents happened that shook the world. Our environmental site assessment experts are here to list four of the world’s worst environmental disasters. Let’s start with the most well-known – Chernobyl.

1.      Chernobyl nuclear disaster

On April the 25th, 1986, power plant workers in Chernobyl, Ukraine sought to perform tests which resulted in the number four reactor overloading and subsequently exploding – releasing enormous amounts of radioactive materials into the environment. Emergency crews were called in to contain the fire and sand and boron were dropped from helicopters to contain the fire and mitigate the spread of radioactive materials.

115,000 people were evacuated from the area in that year with over 200,000 more in the years that followed. Whilst 31 people died due to the initial event – it’s been estimated that anywhere between 4,000 and 60,000 have died over the years as a result of the radioactive contamination that was spread throughout the environment. Chernobyl is still uninhabited to this day and will remain so for up to 200,000 years.

2.      BP oil spill

On the 20th of April 2010, an emergency valve on the Deepwater Horizon drill failed and allowed gas to reach the drill rig itself, triggering an explosion that killed 11 workers and dumped over 130 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It is the largest oil incident to occur in U.S waters. The result was the death of millions of marine life as the oil spread throughout the gulf unchecked until the 15th of July when BP plugged the leak using a cap. Even ten years later there are still some marine lifeforms and habitats that are struggling to recover from the oil spill.

3.      Fukushima nuclear disaster

Heralded as the worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl, the Fukushima Daiichi incident is the first event on our list that was actually caused by a natural disaster – two to be exact. After an earthquake and tsunami occurred on March 11, 2011, three of the Fukushima power plant’s six cores were severely damaged, resulting in the release of hydrogen and radioactive materials into the environment. The hydrogen’s release triggered an explosion that damaged three reactor buildings and also obstructed access to emergency services.

This tragedy also sent a massive amount of radiation into the Pacific Ocean. The radioactive water has since been used to cool the reactor, but it’s projected that the storage units will be full by 2022. With that in mind, the Japanese government is planning to dump the contaminated water back into the ocean after almost all of the radioactive materials have been filtered out of it. Tritium is the only isotope that cannot be separated; however, it emits low levels of radiation that are not very harmful to humans or animals. No one was killed due to the power plant explosion, however, 15,000 were killed as a result of the tsunami and earthquake.

4.      Bhopal disaster

During the night of December 2, 1984, two years before the Chernobyl number four reactor exploded, 40 tons of methyl isocyanate, a highly toxic pesticide, was accidentally released from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. Over 600,000 people were affected by the gas that night in the surrounding towns and experienced nausea and throat/eye-burning as well as death. Over 3000 people were killed on the night with the overall estimated death toll sitting at around 20,000. Almost 40 years later, and many of the survivors are dealing with stillbirths, prolonged pain, cancer and miscarriages to name a few of the symptoms.

No clean up operation has ever been attempted and the site is still considered to be highly toxic. Recent surveys concluded that the contamination has spread to 42 areas around Bhopal and also contains six persistent organic pollutants that have actually been banned by the United Nations for being highly poisonous to the environment and human health.

Do you require an environmental site assessment in Melbourne?

If you’ve recently acquired new land and are planning to build, then we highly recommend you consider an environmental site assessment. Alpha Environmental are qualified and experienced in carrying out phase I, phase II and phase III environmental site assessments and can ensure your site is safe to build on. You can rest assured knowing that we carry out meticulous and in-depth research and testing to achieve the best results.

If you would like to know more about our services, then please don’t hesitate to contact us by filling out our enquiry form or by calling 1300 039 181.