Germany and Poland search for cause of mass fish die-off in river Oder


  • Tons of dead fish collected in river on Polish-German border
  • Authorities are working to determine the cause
  • Polish authorities criticized for slow response
  • Polish PM says Oder may take years to return to normal

BERLIN/WARSAW, Aug. 12 (Reuters) – Polish and German authorities are working “fully” to determine the cause behind a mass die-off of fish in the Oder River, German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said Friday, warning about an environment catastrophe.

Tons of dead fish have been found in the Oder River, which runs through Germany and Poland, since the end of July. Both sides have said they believe a toxic substance is the culprit, but have not yet identified it.

“There is an environmental disaster ahead,” Lemke told the RND newspaper group. “All parties are working diligently to find the reasons for this mass extinction and minimize possible further damage.”

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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said it will be years before the waterway returns to normal.

“The magnitude of this pollution is very large. So big that the Oder can take years to return to a fairly normal state,” Morawiecki said in a regular podcast on Friday.

“It is likely that huge amounts of chemical waste were dumped into the river,” he said, adding that those responsible would be held accountable.

Late on Friday, Morawiecki fired the head of the Polish National Water Management Authority, Przemyslaw Daca, and the head of the General Environmental Inspectorate Michal Mistrzak, saying their institutions should have responded sooner.

A spokesman for the German environment minister told a press conference on Friday that they are closely monitoring the situation and that it is not yet clear what has entered the water.

“We have an incomplete picture,” said the spokesman. “We need clarity about what materials are in the water.”


Green activists and opposition politicians have criticized the Polish government for not reacting quickly enough to the danger and warning Poles not to swim and fish in the river that has been polluted since late July.

Germany has also grumbled about Poland’s response: Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel had previously said that “chains of communication between the Polish and German sides did not work in this case”.

Earlier Friday, Daca said the situation was serious and that Poland had collected more than 11 tons of dead fish on Thursday evening.

“The problem is huge, the pollution wave runs from Wroclaw to Szczecin. That’s hundreds of kilometers of river, the pollution is huge,” he told Polish Radio 24.

An analysis of river water taken this week showed evidence of “synthetic chemicals, most likely also with toxic effects to vertebrates,” the Environment Ministry of the German state of Brandenburg said on Thursday, adding that it remained unclear how the substance was used. got into the water.

According to local German broadcaster rbb, the state laboratory found high levels of mercury in the water samples.

Poland has detected above-normal levels of mercury in samples of Oder water from the province of Silesia, no traces of the toxic metal have been found in samples taken from the provinces of West Pomerania, Lubusz and Lower Silesia, Deputy Environment Minister Jacek told Ozdoba late at a press conference on Friday. Poland plans to set up a barrier on the Oder near the town of Kostrzyn to collect dead fish that flow along the river, with 150 territorial forces deployed to assist with the cleanup.

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Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Marek Strzelecki and Pawel Florkiewicz; Additional reporting by Anna Koper, Thomas Escritt and Karol Badohal, Writing by Rachel More; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Mike Harrison, Toby Chopra, Raissa Kasolowsky and Louise Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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