After fish died in the Oder River east of Brandenburg, possibly caused by mercury pollution, conservationists are assuming far-reaching consequences for the Lower Oder Valley National Park. “The effects are terrible,” National Park deputy manager Michael Tautenhahn told the German Press Agency Friday morning. “This is simply a disaster for the national park.”
affected animals and plants
Animals and plants are affected, as is the development of tourism in the region. “The wave of poisoning has completely crossed the Oder,” Tautenhahn said. Dead fish were seen floating across the width of the river. Zander, catfish, gudgens and loach are affected. Sea eagles and other birds can ingest venom from dead fish.
Tautenhahn expects the national park’s image to suffer. “It’s a poisoned disaster area.” He feared that many people would now avoid the national park. The Lower Oder Valley National Park at the eastern end of Brandenburg is one of the most species-rich habitats in Germany.
Water samples after the fish died in the Oder in Brandenburg showed evidence of significant mercury pollution. “First results have been available since last night. We don’t have it officially yet, but it points to massive mercury exposure as a factor,” Gregor Beyer, head of the environmental administration of the Märkisch-Oderland district, said Friday morning at RBB Inradio. “We don’t know if this is the only one.”
Warning systems were not used
The thesis that too little oxygen could be the cause of fish death was rejected by the district administration from the beginning. “Now we know that too,” Beyer said. “We have, quite unusually, even more oxygen in the Oder.”
There is currently a lot of speculation about the origin of mercury or other toxins, Beyer said. “The really annoying part of this is that the entries, which obviously came from the direction of Poland, were not reported by the appropriate warning systems, so we were only able to react when a fish kill was directly observed.”
According to the Polish Environmental Protection Agency, the fish death was likely caused by industrial water pollution. Beyer said: “We know from several measurements that we were able to immediately collect that a 30-centimeter water wave passed through the Oder.” still not 100 percent.”
Test results scheduled for Sunday
Meanwhile, Poland will not be able to submit its own test results until Sunday at the earliest. So far, the State Research Institute in Pulawy has not received any fish, director Krzysztof Niemczuk told the PAP news agency on Friday. “We are still waiting and hope to receive the first batch of fish for testing tonight.”
Fish should be screened for metals, pesticides and other toxic substances. Niemczuk: “There are so many substances that could have caused the fish to die that we can’t say at this point what the cause might be.”
Not only the analysis of the dead fish, but also the water samples from the Oder in Poland continues. On Thursday, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Grzegorz Witkowski said the results of the river water analysis will be presented “within a week at the latest”.
According to the Polish Water Authority, ten tons of dead fish were recovered. Faced with these indications, the Zielona Gora Fishermen’s Association announced on Friday that it would stop collecting dead fish immediately.
Meanwhile, in Poland, criticism is growing that the authorities and government are reacting too slowly to the killing of fish. “The Polish side has information about the poisoning since July 26, Germany since the day before yesterday. After nearly two days, they announced that the cause could be highly toxic mercury compounds. The Polish government doesn’t know about it to this day, although the disaster happened two weeks ago,” the mayor of Krosno Odrzanskie, Marek Cebula, told Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper.
Greens criticize Polish officials
There are clear criticisms of Polish authorities from the ranks of the Greens in Brandenburg. “I am shaken. Not only because the fish die thousands of times, but also because of the failure of the Polish information chain,” said the leader of the parliamentary group of the Greens in the Brandenburg state parliament, Benjamin Raschke, on Friday.
If simple chains of reporting don’t work in the event of an ecological catastrophe, there is a fundamental need for discussion. “We often notice that there are very different views on both sides of the Oder regarding the future development of the Oder.”
The spokeswoman for the Greens in Frankfurt (Oder), Alena Karaschinski, said frustration was deep at the breakdown of trust in the room. “A multiple failure of reporting obligations and possibly even an attempt to cover up an environmental disaster. This will have to be dealt with at the federal level between Germany and Poland.”