Poland pushing legislation to protect polluted Oder River

August 23, 2022 GMT

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s lawmakers are expected to approve urgent legislation designed to protect Poland’s Oder River and to prevent environmental catastrophes like pollution and a recent die-off of fish, officials said Tuesday.

Deputy infrastructure minister Marek Grobarczyk said the legislation, which lawmakers are set to consider through a fast-track procedure, would provide funds for steady monitoring of the Oder’s waters and for new sewage treatment plants.

It would also provide financial compensation to businesses, chiefly tourism and food businesses hardest hit by what authorities call the worst natural disaster in the Oder area in many years.

Fishermen in southwestern Poland first noticed an unusual number of dead fish in the Oder in late July, and some 130 tons worth have since been pulled from the river in Poland and many more in neighboring Germany.

Experts in Poland and Germany identified toxic algae in the river water and changes in its chemical composition but have not pointed to any single factor that could have killed the fish.

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Poland’s chief environment protection official, Mirosława Zbroś, said Tuesday that laboratory tests performed in Czechia provided similar results to those obtained in Poland. Result are expected soon from samples sent to laboratories in the Netherlands and the U.K.

An official in charge of Poland’s water systems, Krzysztof Wos, said there are almost 300 illegal, unmonitored discharge points on the Oder, some of which are under investigation.

His office, state-run Polish Waters, issues licenses allowing businesses and industry to discharge their waste into rivers under strict parameters. However, there is no permanent monitoring system for the Oder or Poland’s other rivers, including the main one, the Vistula.

The Oder, some 840 kilometers (520 miles) long, starts in Czechia but mostly runs through southwestern Poland and along the border with Germany before emptying into the Baltic Sea.

Polish station TVN24 station showed some fishermen in the Szczecin region trying to save individual fish by transferring them from the river to plastic pools.