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‘Dead fish everywhere’ in German-Polish river after dreaded chemical waste dump

The fish floating along the German banks near the eastern city of Schwedt would have washed upstream from Poland.

Thousands of fish have washed up dead on the Oder River that runs through Germany and Poland, sparking environmental disaster warnings as residents are urged to stay away from the water.

The fish floating along Germany’s banks near the eastern city of Schwedt are believed to have washed up upstream from Poland, where the first reports of massive fish kills were reported by locals and fishermen as early as July 28.

German officials accused the Polish authorities of not informing them of the dead and were surprised when the wave of lifeless fish came into view.

In Poland, the government has also been heavily criticized for not taking swift action.

Almost two weeks after the first dead fish drifted through Polish villages, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday that “everyone initially thought it was a local problem”.

But he admitted that “the scale of the disaster is very large, large enough to say that the Oder will take years to restore its natural state.”

“It is likely that huge amounts of chemical waste were dumped into the river in full knowledge of the risks and consequences,” the Polish leader added, while Germany’s Environment Minister Steffi Lemke urged a comprehensive investigation into what she called an “environmental disaster”. called brewing.

‘Atypical’

Michael Tautenhahn, deputy head of the German National Park Lower Odertal, stood on the bank of the river and looked in horror at the river on the German-Polish border.

“We are on the German side – we have dead fish everywhere,” he told AFP.

“I am deeply shocked…I feel like I see decades of work in ruins here. I see our livelihood, the water — that’s our life,” he said, pointing out that it’s not just fish that are died, but also mussels and probably countless other aquatic animals.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

The Oder has been known in recent years as a relatively clean river and 40 domesticated fish species live in the waterway.

But now lifeless fish can be seen across the river, some only a few centimeters, others 30-40 cm. Occasionally you’ll see those who still struggle to pull through jumping up into the water, seemingly gasping for air.

Officials believe the fish may have been poisoned.

“This fish kill is atypical,” said Brandenburg Environment Minister Axel Vogel, who estimates that “undoubtedly tons” of fish have died.

The death of fish is often caused by the disruption of oxygen levels when the water level is too low, he explained.

“But we have completely different test results, which is that we have had an increased oxygen level in the river for several days, and that indicates that a foreign substance was introduced that led to this,” he said.

Tests are underway in Germany to identify the substance that may have led to the deaths.

Early reports had suggested evidence of extremely high levels of mercury. But another set of preliminary results released Friday night showed unusually high salt levels.

Authorities said they were inconclusive and further test results on heavy metals and mercury were pending.

In Poland, prosecutors have also launched investigations after authorities came under fire for what critics say was a slow response to a disaster.

Tautenhahn said the disaster is likely to have repercussions for years to come.

“If it’s mercury, it’ll stay here for a long time too,” he said, pointing out that mercury doesn’t decompose, but then stays in the sediments.


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© 2022 AFP

Quote: ‘Dead fish everywhere’ in German-Polish river after feared chemical waste dump (2022, August 13) found on August 13, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-dead-fish-german-polish -river -chemical.html

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