Pollution of Oder: Officials point to a toxic algae

Authorities in Germany and Poland suspect toxic algae may be responsible for the death of more than 100 tons of fish in the Oder River that crosses the two countries on Monday.

“Studies conducted so far have confirmed the presence of ‘toxic’ algae ‘Prymensium parvum’,” Poland’s Deputy Environment Minister Jacek Ostopa said on Twitter.

On the German side, “recent results from the Leibniz Institute and the University of Vienna confirm the suspicion that the mass growth of toxic algae may be responsible for the death of fish,” said a spokesman for the German Environment Ministry. , Andreas Kübler, at a regular press conference in Berlin.

Other factors involved

However, the spokesperson stressed that the reasons explaining such massive deaths of fish and mussels are ‘many’.

Harmful microalgae, also known as ‘golden algae’, are commonly found in estuaries and typically develop in brackish waters with a lower salt content than in the ocean. ‘If the fresh water of the Oder has increased to this extent, it indicates an unusual salinity of the river, which may have industrial causes,’ the spokesman pointed out.

High salinity levels may be favored by low water levels and high temperatures, experts said.

Tight ties

Berlin and Warsaw are trying to establish the cause of this massive pollution of the Oder, the extent of which was revealed in mid-August. On both sides, chemicals were initially suspected to have played a role. However, Polish Environment Minister Anna Moskwa later clarified that “none of the samples tested so far” had “shown toxic substances”.

The disaster caused a slight strain in the relationship between the two countries. As a result, Germany accused Poland of delay in reporting the extent of the contamination. On Saturday, Anna Moskva warned that “a new fake news is spreading in Germany” after Brandenburg’s environment minister suspected pesticide in the water.

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The Polish minister said traces of mercury were found in the water, which was not verified, in line with previous reports by the authorities of the land.

Delayed actions

In Poland, the government has come under heavy criticism for not taking immediate action. The first reports of mass fish kills in the Oder came from Polish locals and fishermen as early as July 28.

In recent years, the Oder has become known as a relatively clean river, with about 40 species of fish living there.

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