Svetlana Petrovna Gumyonnaya (46 years old)

The following interview was conducted in November 2003 in Berezovka, Kazakhstan.
My name is Svetlana Petrovna Gumyonnaya. I am a resident of the village of Berezovka. I was born and grew up here. I teach Biology, Chemistry and the Foundations of Healthy Living, which is a new class focused on ecology, a subject that I find very necessary to teach.

Question: Who usually comes to the village to take samples for monitoring and analysis?

Only within the last few years have we been told who exactly comes to the village to conduct monitoring. Everyone knows that there is a KIO laboratory here in the village, which has been in operation for the past 7 to 8 years, but information about or results from their research has always been kept from us. Only recently have we begun to understand what really goes on here.

I myself talked with the head of the KIO lab and he told me that conditions in the village are perfectly normal; that when, for example, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide increase its on account of villagers’ compost or camp fires. In response I told him that I too received my graduate degree and that I am not stupid enough to believe the fairy tales he was telling me.

Epidemiologists travel here from Aksai and Uralsk. It’s a noticeable fact that our village is located in a depression, and yet all of the monitoring stations are set up on the plains above our village. Every lab-KIO, Aksai, Uralsk-produces the exact same results. They all tell us that emission levels here are either at normal level or even below normal. And yet, simply from our own observations, our health conditions and the air we breathe and smell, we know that is not the case.

When I asked the KIO lab for more detailed and accurate results, they me that if I don’t believe them I should request that our local mayor buy the village it’s own equipment, that we set up our own laboratory, and check the findings ourselves. When I asked how we would get the financing to conduct our own studies, I was told that issues of money should be taken up with the mayor.

They also sample our water. I have showed them where to take the samples including certain points along the river, depression areas, a few points in the center of the village and from my own tap.

They sampled our water twice over the summer and concluded that our water pipes were in such poor condition they would have to be replaced. And that was it, so far they haven’t done anything yet, and its already November.

Question: Do they come here often?

It depends, the KIO lab samples every day, maybe even twice a day. But I have no idea how often the government epidemiologists conduct testing.

Question: When KIO comes every day, do you then see their results?

No, we don’t see the results. Once, when we told the lab that we don’t believe their results, they told us to conduct our own testing. We agreed, but asked KIO to share their methodology. I am a chemist, but this is not something I have experience in and therefore needed some guidance in terms of what methods to use. So they told me they would pick me up the next morning when they came to test and take me with them to the lab. Usually they arrive between 10 and 12 in the morning, but that day they came at 8, took their samples and left.