Officials warned local residents not to melt the snow for drinking water, and to keep children and animals from touching it, but said that initial tests had shown no dangerous radioactive or chemical pollutants in the snow. The Emergency Situations Ministry attributed the multi-coloured snow to clay-coloured dust whipped up by storms in Kazakhstan.
A spokesman for Russia’s environmental watchdog however, told the Guardian: “I don’t believe this came from a storm. If we discover that it is an industrial entity that produced this pollution criminal charges will be opened.”
Southern Siberia is a hotbed of polluting industries, making the task of tracking down the source of the pollution a difficult one. Vladimir Sliviak, chairman of the Russian environmental group, Ecodefence, said that although yellow snow was rare, there had been two other cases in the last decade.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist February 2007