Oder river pollution could affect fish in Baltic Sea

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Oder river pollution could affect fish in Baltic Sea

The industrial pollution in the Oder river that has caused a mass die-off of fish is likely to affect marine life as far as the Baltic Sea, reported dpa.

This was assumed by a German state Environment Ministry. The Oder river flows along the border between Germany and Poland.

Depending on wind and current conditions, the pollution is expected to reach the mouth of the Oder river near the port city of Szczecin in Poland as early as this evening, the Environment Ministry of the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern wrote in a statement late on Friday evening.

In the course of Saturday, the western part of the Szczecin Lagoon could also be affected, it said.

The ministry called on residents to refrain from fishing in the river and using its water for any purpose.

Scientists have spent days trying to determine the cause of the mass die-off after the Polish water authority said 10 tons of dead fish were recovered from the river along the border.

The mayor of the eastern German city of Schwedt, Annekathrin Hoppe, called the death of thousands of fish an environmental catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. According to officials of the Lower Oder Valley National Park in the region, the effects might be felt for years, she told broadcaster rbb.

Hundreds of emergency workers equipped with gloves and rubber boats were deployed to recover the fish in the eastern German state of Brandenburg on Saturday morning.

A spokesperson for the Märkisch-Oderland district said he was expecting that the 300 workers would recover several tons of fish along 80 kilometres of riverbank.

A dpa correspondent in Lebus, a town situated on the Oder, reported an unpleasant smell that had spread due to the rotting fish.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday that the mass die-off was likely triggered by chemical waste being dumped into the river.

However, laboratory tests have so far not provided any precise information about the contamination of the water and its causes. Since the cause of the environmental disaster is suspected to be in Poland, German officials have also complained of slow reactions from the Polish side.

On Friday, Morawiecki already dismissed two top officials, the head of the water authority and the head of the environmental authority, for allegedly responding too slowly to the issue.

Meanwhile, the country has offered a high reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible for the pollution. The police have offered the equivalent of €210,000 ($215,000), Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wąsik said on Saturday.

"We want to find the culprits and punish the perpetrators of the environmental crime that is probably at stake here," Morawiecki said.

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