Thriller toxin suspected as 100 tons of useless fish taken off from Oder River on German-Polish border

Environmental disaster on the Oder River
Dead fish, mussels and snails are gathered on the water floor at a barrier laid by the fire office in the Westoder River, together the German-Polish border, in close proximity to the junction with the main Oder River, August 16, 2022.

Patrick Pleul/photograph alliance by means of Getty

Berlin — A river on the German-Polish border has come to be a mass grave. Volunteers and authorities have been chaotic for times eliminating tons of lifeless fish floating on the surface area of the Oder River.

The trigger of the large die-off, which has afflicted a extend of the river more than 300 miles extensive, continues to be a thriller, but Sascha Maier, a drinking water policy officer at the BUND environmental business, explained to CBS News on Wednesday that “everything points to a artifical catastrophe.”

Authorities are having difficulties to locate answers.

Additional than 500 firefighters are using element in the endeavours to clean up the mess on the Polish aspect of the river. Maier mentioned at minimum 110 tons of useless fish experienced been taken off from the river as of Wednesday. A sample of about 100 of the carcasses were taken for investigation, while the rest was to be burned at a focused web site in Germany.

Environmental disaster on the Oder River
A ranger with the Brandenburg nature guard, stands with protective clothes in the German-Polish border river Westoder, in the vicinity of the junction with the most important Oder River, and gets rid of dead fish, August 16, 2022.

Patrick Pleul/photograph alliance/Getty

Poland’s governing administration claims no poisonous substances have been observed in h2o samples from the Oder, and Ecosystem Minister Anna Moskwa mentioned there was no proof of pesticides in samples from the dead fish.

The government has available a few hypotheses.

The to start with is that some nevertheless-unfamiliar harmful substance obtained into the riverwater by means of both an intentional or accidental discharge from an industrial plant alongside the Oder, or that someone illegally dumped a toxin into the river.

The next thesis is that the cause was organic. Poland and Germany, like most of Europe, have sweltered by way of record substantial temperatures, and lower drinking water concentrations have enhanced concentrations of pollutants this summer months. The Polish environmental agency is investigating all situation that could describe bigger salinity and water temperatures observed in the Oder, Moskwa claimed.

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The third risk getting investigated is the discharge of a significant quantity of industrial water containing chlorine into the river. Moskwa said if there was a launch of chlorine into the h2o, it could have settled and contaminated river bottom sediments, which can place wildlife at risk.

The significant fish get rid of was initially pointed out by locals in Poland on July 28, all around the town of Wroclaw. 

“A single factor is distinct, the water in the Oder River is polluted, only with what is not very clear so far,” Maier, of the German team BUND explained to CBS Information. “Elevated salt and oxygen amounts have been detected in the h2o.”

The result in of the better salinity and water temperatures hasn’t been confirmed, or definitively joined to the mass die-off of fish.

A floating barrier is utilized to get dead fish on the surface area of the Oder River as an excavator removes them from the drinking water, in Krajnik Dolny, northwest Poland, August 15, 2022.


The German Atmosphere Ministry has ruled out mercury contamination as the bring about.

Polish officials suspect the river was contaminated with chemical squander. Primary Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has supplied a reward of 1 million zloty (about $218,000) to everyone who an detect the induce.

It’s not only fish impacted by the mystery contaminant. Several other animals, such as mussels and smaller vertebrates in and close to the river have also experienced, Maier instructed CBS News. You will find also a possibility that the as-nevertheless-unknown toxin could be absorbed into the food stuff chain and have an effect on even additional species — even animals destined for human intake.

Thousands of fish have washed up dead on the Oder river
A lifeless deer is found on the financial institutions of the Oder River right after countless numbers of lifeless fish were being identified floating on the river’s area, in Oder, Poland, August 16, 2022.

Jo Harper/Anadolu Agency/Getty

“We have witnessed that other animal species, these kinds of as eagles or even raccoons, try to eat the carcasses,” Maier stated, and farmers have prolonged utilised h2o from the Oder all together the river valley for their sheep and cattle.

Authorities strongly recommend versus use the Oder’s drinking water for livestock appropriate now, forcing farmers to look for solutions.

The Global Commission for the Defense of the Oder River (ICPO), an organization that sees delegations from Czechia [also known as the Czech Republic), Poland and Germany cooperate to protect the waterway, has working groups dedicated to raising the alarm in cases such as this. According to their plans, so-called International Main Warning Centers are situated along the river in all three countries and are supposed to pass on reports of pollution or damage in a relay of information aimed at giving early warning to locations downstream.

But that apparently didn’t happen as intended. In Brandenburg, Germany, the fish kill has only been monitored since August 10, and people there were caught unprepared.

“There was no advance warning from Poland, although the fish kill had been known there for two weeks at that point,” a spokesman for the German Environment Ministry said Monday.

Why the reporting chain didn’t function as intended also remains unclear. German’s Federal Environment Ministry said the responsible working group would hold a special meeting on August 18 to look into the matter.

Thousands of fish have washed up dead on the Oder river
A dead fish, among thousands found, is seen on the Oder River in Oder, Poland, August 16, 2022. 

Jo Harper/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Whatever the contamination is, it hit an ecosystem that was already under great stress this summer, Maier told CBS News, thanks to the weeks of extreme heat and hardly any rainfall. Those conditions have very likely exacerbated the problem, at least, because the lower water volume means a higher concentration of any toxic substances present.

“Because of the low water, we have a warm Oder River,” he said. That alone can cause significant physical stress for many fish species, and “if pollution is then added, they are less resistant.”

Maier said an ongoing infrastructure project, funded by the World Bank, to expand the bed of the Oder on the Polish side is also a source of stress for the river’s wildlife, and a possible cause of its contamination.

After a meeting of Polish and German government representatives, the German Environment Ministry said Monday that experts from both countries would work closely together to find the cause of the problem.

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