Massive death of fish in a German-Polish river attributed to an unknown toxic substance

An analysis of the river water taken this week showed evidence of “synthetic chemicals, most likely also with toxic effects for vertebrates”, the ministry said on Thursday, adding that it remained unclear how the substance entered the water.

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

The head of Poland’s national water management authority told private television channel Polsat News that the presence of mercury in the water had not yet been confirmed, however.

“At the moment these are news reports. We have no confirmation regarding mercury in the Oder,” said Przemyslaw Daca, head of Polish waters.

The ministry in Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin, said it had not yet been possible to assess the number of dead fish in Poland and Germany.

“The communication channels between the Polish and German parties did not work in this case,” Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel said, adding that the German authorities had still not received notification from the Poland on the incident.

In a public warning this week, residents of the Uckermark and Barnim districts, home to hills and a nature reserve, were told to avoid contact with water from the Oder and an adjacent canal.

In Poland, a senior local official from the opposition Civic Platform party said she would file a petition to declare a state of natural disaster in the Lubusz region. The decision to do so rests with the government.

“Under no circumstances should you approach the Oder or allow animals to drink from it,” Elzbieta Anna Polak wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Writing by Rachel More; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Mike Harrison)

James R. Rhodes