Poland Vows Punishment for Culprits of Toxic Waste Dump After Mass Fish Die-Off in Oder
Tons of dead fish were seen floating or washed ashore on the banks of the river Oder, which runs along Poland's border with Germany, over the past two weeks. The regional fishing association stated that the water had been “poisoned by an unknown substance” and advised people to avoid fishing and to “absolutely not consume any fish caught.”
Poland’s prime minister has warned of a major environmental catastrophe that may take years to recover from.
“Huge amounts of chemical waste were probably dumped in the Oder River with full awareness of the risks and consequences. We will not let this matter go. We will not rest until the guilty are severely punished,” Mateusz Morawiecki said in a video on Facebook* on Friday.
Huge numbers of dead fish, as well as other dead animals such as beavers, were initially spotted floating in the river Oder, which runs along Poland’s border with Germany, or washed ashore near the southwestern Polish town of Olawa in late July.
An estimated 10 tons of dead fish were pulled from a 200-kilometre stretch of the river earlier this week, head of Polish Waters Daca Przemyslaw said on Thursday. A highly toxic substance was blamed for the mass die-off.
The German state of Brandenburg's Environment Ministry suggested analysis of river water showed evidence of "synthetic chemical substances, very probably also with toxic effects for vertebrates."
According to broadcaster RBB, the state laboratory found high levels of mercury in the water samples.
However, the head of Poland's national water management authority was cited by broadcaster Polsat News as saying any presence of mercury in the water was yet to be confirmed.
"At the moment, these are press reports. We have no confirmation regarding mercury in the Oder," Daca said, while acknowledging they were dealing with a “gigantic and outrageous ecological catastrophe.”
As both Poland and Germany have launched an investigation into the incident, German officials have decried the fact that they were not duly notified by the other side about the possible contamination of the river.
"The chains of communication between the Polish and German sides did not work in this case," Brandenburg Environment Minister Axel Vogel was cited as saying.
According to Christopher Stolzenberg, a spokesperson for Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry, German authorities were in contact with their Polish counterparts to get further information about the situation and to provide any assistance requested.
Meanwhile, according to Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland has deployed soldiers and reservists to help clean up the Oder.
*Activity of Meta (Facebook and Instagram) is banned in Russia as extremist