As reported by br.de on Saturday, August 13, mystery still surrounds an environmental catastrophe that has struck the German-Polish border Oder river, leaving many fish dead. Polish authorities have offered a reward of one million zlotys (more than €200,000) for anybody who comes forward with information.
Authorities in Germany suspect the cause to have originated in Poland and have warned that it could have a knock-on effect on the Baltic Sea.
On the evening of Friday, August 12, the Ministry of the Environment in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania warned of the effects on the Szczecin Lagoon. Depending on wind and current conditions, they expected the loads to reach the mouth of the Oder near Szczecin in Poland today.
Previous laboratory analyses did not produce any precise information about the pollution of the water or the causes. Since the cause of the environmental disaster is suspected to be in Poland, accusations have already been made in Germany that the neighbouring country did not provide information about it in good time.
As a precaution, the Ministry of the Environment called on residents to refrain from fishing in and taking water from the water. The responsible authorities in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are currently preparing water and fish samples.
A reporter from the dpa news agency said that on the Oder in the Brandenburg town of Lebus – not far from Frankfurt – an unpleasant smell has spread due to the decomposition of the fish. Birds have also been seen carrying away dead fish.
Hundreds of helpers in eastern Brandenburg have helped collect the dead animals. Thomas Rubin, the district spokesman for Markisch-Oderland said that around 300 emergency services have been on the road for around 80km since Saturday morning. “I reckon they took out several tons of fish”, he added.
Rubin pointed out that boats are also being used, with the fish carcasses placed in garbage bags, which are collected at several locations and then placed in containers. After collecting the fish on Saturday, the disposal in the Markisch-Oderland district is expected to continue on Monday, August 15 he said.
Polish authorities have offered a reward of the equivalent of €210,000 for information on who or what caused the water pollution. Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasik announced on Saturday that “a reward of one million zlotys should help find those responsible for this environmental disaster”.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Prime Minister, admitted that he was informed on “August 9 or 10”, although there had been initial indications of water pollution and dead fish at the end of July. “It is clear that I found out too late. The authorities concerned should have informed me earlier”, said Morawiecki.
The extent of the pollution is “very large, large enough to say that the Oder will take years to return to its natural state”, Morawiecki stressed. Last Friday, August 12, the head of government dismissed Przemyslaw Daca, the head of the Polish water protection agency, along with Michal Mistrzak, the chief inspector of the environmental protection agency. He accused the latter of “acting too slowly”.
The Polish government had been massively criticized both in its own country and in Germany in the past few days because it had not reacted to the environmental catastrophe sooner. “An environmental catastrophe is looming here”, Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke told the German media.
On the German side, the authorities had received the first indications of an unusual fish kill on Tuesday, August 9. As a result, they issued warnings to the population in rapid succession and initiated countermeasures.
Among other things, people were asked to avoid contact with the water and not to use it. Bodies of water such as the so-called Alte Oder were separated to prevent contaminated water from entering.
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