By Paul Seaburn
It’s the hometown of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, so anything unusual happening there gets high attention. So what kind of attention do you think a blue snowfall got? How about blue mixed with some deep purple snow?
The strange-colored snow fell on Russia’s second-largest city on December 26th. The St. Petersburg Internet news source www.fontanka.ru reported that approximately 1 cm (0.39 inches) fell on that date, covering the ground, roofs, cars, windowsills and plants.
“Eyewitnesses specify that it is not distributed evenly – by waves, as if the “paint” was blown off somewhere and blown by a wind rose. The thickness of the cover is about 1 cm. All the respondents of Fontanka stated that they see this phenomenon for the first time in their life.”
“First time” in St. Petersburg, perhaps, but if any of them were in Chelyabinsk in February 2015 they would have seen a similar scene – blue snow covering a large area of the city that just two years before survived the great 2013 meteor explosion. The “Chelyabinsk blue” snow was said to have smelled like iron and tasted sweet (who goes around tasting mysterious blue snow that’s not in a cone?) but caused throat irritations (duh). After the usual denials, finger-pointing and conflicting possibilities, a local company that makes Easter egg dye confessed that it had a “minor” spill that was somehow major enough to taint the snowfall, but of course it was “not harmful to humans.” This blue snow came just two weeks after a mysterious orange snow fell on the Russian city of Saratov, which was blamed on orange sand lifted into the atmosphere by a sandstorm in the Sahara desert. How did the Sahara get orange sand? That’s a mystery for them to figure out.
Meanwhile, back in St. Petersburg, residents demanded answers as they shoveled the blue and purple swirls from their sidewalks and driveways and marveled cautiously as their dogs added yellow streams and turned the snow green.
“To find out what substance caused the staining of the snow, the laboratory of the FGBU “TsLATI in the North-West Federal District” took samples. It is expected that the intermediate results of the study of snow will be known in the near future. The Office promises to immediately inform the public about them.”
Non-experts noted two things: the chemicals most likely to cause a blue stain are cobalt or methylene blue, also known as methylthioninium chloride, a substance used to treat methemoglobinemia, a blood condition that usually caused – ironically — by exposure to a drug or chemical. It’s ironic in this case because the locals also noticed that the blue snow coincided with the demolition of the nearby Chemist-Pharmaceutical Plant No. 1.
All together now: “Ah-ha!”
“According to our assumptions, it was brought by the wind from the building of the chemical and pharmaceutical research institute, which they began to demolish on Aptekarsky Avenue.”
A local resident told www.fontanka.ru that the plant once churned out Citrimon, Vitamin C tablets, iodine and other medications until it was closed in 2007. The factory buildings were supposed to have been turned into retail shops, but for some ‘mysterious’ reason no one seemed interested in doing the renovations and they were left vacant for 10 years until finally being demolished this past week.
As usual, the developers responsible for the demolition say they weren’t aware of any chemicals and promised to bring in “nature management, environmental protection and environmental safety” experts.
What’s the Russian word for “Isn’t it a little late for that?”