#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. In the 1950s, there was a difficult sanitary situation in Norilsk, which caused a high infectious disease rate. The reasons were poor water supply, inadequate sanitation, and a shortage of housing.
A huge problem in the city, and especially in the villages around it, was the lack of a central sewage system and organized garbage disposal, which is why outbreaks of dysentery became a constant occurrence in those years.
In 1958, an expedition of the Moscow Research Institute of Sanitation and Hygiene named after Erisman worked in Norilsk. For more than a year, the Institute staff studied the Norilsk people’s working and living conditions.
The conclusions were disappointing. It was found that the reserve source of drinking water supply – lake Dolgoye – had an extremely high degree of bacterial contamination, drinking water was not disinfected effectively enough. The area around the lake was not protected from pollution in any way. And although the authorities banned swimming, boating and washing clothes there, there was a water intake on one side of the Dolgoye, and a city beach and private buildings on the other.
In the spring, every year there was a need for sanitation of the city and adjacent villages. Cesspools in huts, uncontrolled sewage discharge from the enterprises and residential buildings territories, and unorganized street trade represented a particular danger.
The housing conditions of a significant part of the population, especially those living in huts, did not meet elementary sanitary requirements.
In addition, in the 1950s, a unified sewerage service had not yet been created, proper cleaning and collection of sewage throughout the city had not been organized, and the problem of dysentery, including its chronic form, was acute. In the summer of 1958, they even opened a nursery for children with chronic dysentery.
Here is how the Norilsk chief architect Larisa Nazarova recalled the situation of those years:
“Once at the executive committee meeting, the sanitary and epidemiological station head physician, Tatyana Pahomova, said that the population uses water from many sources for drinking, and this is probably the cause of high intestinal morbidity. Together with her, we went to survey a residential area located in a lowland between Oktyabrskaya and Zavodskaya streets, along a stream.
A striking picture of a rural idyll opened up before us: along the banks and mounds of a steeply curving shallow stream, a real village was clinging with houses, sheds, bridges from which clothes were rinsed in the water, latrine booths stood nearby, chickens, pigs and dogs roamed here in abundance. Everything flowed into the stream, and the water was taken again for domestic needs.
Moreover, I found out that the pipe on Zavodskaya street, from which a wide stream of water poured into Coal creek, and in it men rinsed milk baby bottles, since there was a dairy kitchen nearby, turned out to be a sewer pipe from an infectious diseases hospital.
We offered to urgently relocate and liquidate this village, and also secured funds for the construction of drinking water supply and sewerage networks in the city”.
As a result of the Institute of Sanitation and Hygiene expedition work, they managed to change the situation: in Norilsk, the state of water supply and sewerage was improved, and the city was regularly sanitized.
In 1962, a comprehensive plan for the infectious diseases’ prevention was approved. Among the interesting measures were the examination of pregnant women and their environment for the dysentery carriage, the implementation of measures to exterminate flies, examinations for pediculosis. By the end of the 1960s, the dysentery incidence in Norilsk had halved.
In the History Spot’s previous publication, we talked about how Norilsk lived before water supply and sewerage.
Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Division archive