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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Dead fish in the Gliwice and Kędzierzyn Canals. Fears of a repeat of the disaster on the Oder River are growing

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Hundreds of kilograms of dead fish were found in the Gliwice and Kędzierzyn Canals. The services are already working on the spot, and the Opolskie Voivode has convened a crisis team. This situation brings associations with last year’s ecological disaster on the Oder river. – We have done everything we could to prevent a repeat of last year’s disaster – argues Minister of Climate and Environment Anna Moscow. Anglers and activists of ecological organizations no longer have such certainty.

Almost half a ton of dead fish were found on several sections of the Gliwice and Kędzierzyn Canals. – They were different species of fish: jaś, pike, zander, perch, but also breams, large breams dominated, which is the same situation as before – informs Jakub Roszuk, director of the office of the Polish Angling Association in Opole.

The Opolskie Voivode convened a crisis team, and environmental protection inspectors and the poviat veterinarian arrived at the site.

The first analyzes indicated that the cause of the mass death of fish was a sharp drop in the oxygen content in the channels, in places to the level of 45 percent. So the firemen started oxygenating the water. – The aeration process is carried out in three locations, in the second sector of the Gliwice Canal. It consists in using fire pumps to pump water and throwing it back into the reservoir of the Gliwice Canal – explains Capt. Piotr Krok from the District Headquarters of the State Fire Service in Kędzierzyn-Koźle.

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Golden algae detected

Anglers who saw dead fish had doubts whether it was just the effect of the so-called ghosting. – The gills, as I observed, were eaten away. Gill leaves – they were not there. There was redness around the fins and oozing blood when the gill cover was pressed. These were the symptoms that previously indicated the presence of algae toxins – says Roszuk.

Anglers’ fears were confirmed by subsequent water samples taken for testing. The Ministry of Climate and Environment reported that “the results of the samples from June 10 show the presence of golden algae in the Kędzierzyn Canal and in two locations in the Gliwice Canal. The alga could have moved with the current.”

It was the toxin secreted by golden algae that led to the ecological disaster on the Oder River and its tributaries last summer. At that time, over 250 tons of dead fish were caught from the river.

– Golden algae like brackish water. In a situation where we have salty waters, these algae can develop, and if a large amount of nutrients is added to it, we are dealing with a bloom of golden algae – explains Professor Andrzej Woźnica, director of the Silesian Water Centre.

“So far no one has dealt with the problem”

The salinity of rivers – according to the Greenpeace report – is largely the result of discharges of pollutants from hard coal mines. – – The Oder and the Vistula, as they flow into Upper Silesia, are rivers of the first class of purity when it comes to salinity. These are actually pure mountain rivers. Downstream of Upper Silesia, they turn, let me put it bluntly, into sewage – emphasizes prof. Leszek Pazderski, a chemist from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.

Experts commissioned by the government to prepare a report on last year’s ecological disaster indicated that mining is responsible for 11 percent of the wastewater volume in the Oder basin. 60 percent is municipal sewage.

– These are septic tanks: both individual and collective sewage treatment plants from these large agglomerations, especially in the Lower Silesian Voivodship. That’s where the biggest problem is. The water-legal permit is still pending – informs the Minister of the Environment and Climate Anna Moscow.

Golden algae in the Gliwice Canal. Experts warn that the catastrophe on the Oder River may happen againRenata Kijowska/Fakty TVN

However, the report also shows that mining plants are responsible for the largest amount of harmful chlorides and sulphates in the Oder river basins – 72 percent of their total amount in wastewater. – There are technologies that make it possible to desalinate water, but all this costs money and apparently the economic calculation of the mines is simply more important for the government – points out Marek Józefiak from Greenpeace Polska.

Minister of Climate and Environment Anna Moscow emphasizes that she is aware that last year’s phenomenon may repeat itself and despite the latest situation, she still argues that the government is ready for any scenario. “We managed to do everything we could do. Retention in mines has been increased so as to be able to limit discharges and adapt them to water parameters, but also to air temperature. We have good monitoring, we can see where the threat is approaching – assures Minister Moscow.

The threat associated with golden algae is already known to many countries, because it is – as experts emphasize – a global problem. – So far, no one has dealt with the problem. Each time, under all favorable conditions, the appearance of toxins of this type happens, mainly in the USA, where such phenomena have been happening practically every year since 1984 – points out Professor Woźnica.

Polish anglers and environmental organizations are appealing to the government to reduce the mines’ limit on the discharge of harmful substances and to verify water and legal permits.

Main photo source: Facts after noon TVN24

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