Polish and German authorities are working “full steam ahead” to determine the cause of the mass fish die-off in the Oder River, German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said on Friday. who warned of an environmental catastrophe.
Since the end of July, tons of dead fish have been found in the Oder River, which runs along the border between Poland and Germany. Both sides have said they believe a toxic substance is to blame, but have yet to identify it.
“An environmental catastrophe is looming,” Lemke told the RND news group. “All parties are working hard to find the reasons for this mass death and to minimize the possible damage that follows.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said it would take years for the waterway to return to normal.
“The scale of this pollution is very large. So large that it can take years for the Oder to return to a fairly normal state,” Morawiecki said on a regular podcast on Friday.
“It is likely that huge amounts of chemical waste have been dumped into the river,” he said, adding that those responsible will be held accountable.
A spokesman for the German environment ministry told a news conference on Friday that they were monitoring the situation closely and it was not yet clear what had reached the water.
“We have an incomplete picture,” the spokesman said. “We need clarity on what materials are in the water.”
Environmental activists and opposition politicians have criticized the Polish government for not reacting quickly enough to the danger and warning citizens to avoid bathing and fishing in the polluted river since late July.
Germany has also complained about Poland’s response. Brandenburg Environment Minister Axel Vogel earlier said that “the communication chains between the Polish and German sides have not worked in this case.”
The head of Poland’s national water management authority said the situation was serious and Poland had collected more than 11 tonnes of dead fish as of Thursday afternoon.
“(It) is being investigated by the public prosecutor’s office, the police and local environmental protection inspections,” Przemyslaw Daca, the director of Polish Waters, was quoted as saying by Poland’s Radio 24.
“The problem is huge, the wave of pollution goes from Wroclaw to Szczecin. There are hundreds of kilometers of river, the pollution is gigantic.”
An analysis of the river water carried out this week showed evidence of “synthetic chemicals, most likely also with toxic effects on vertebrates,” the environment ministry for the German state of Brandenburg said on Thursday, adding that it remained unclear how it entered the river. the substance in the water.
According to local German broadcaster rbb, the state laboratory found high levels of mercury in the water samples.
Poland has detected mercury above normal levels in samples of Oder water in Silesia province and no traces of the poisonous metal were found in samples taken in West Pomerania, Lubus and Lower Silesia provinces, Deputy Environment Minister said. Environment, Jacek Ozdoba, at a press conference late on Friday.
Poland plans to set up a barrier on the Oder near the town of Kostrzyn to collect dead fish coming down the river, and 150 soldiers from the Territorial Defense Forces have been delegated to help clean up.