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Wroclaw. The proceedings initiated after the Odra disaster were discontinued

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The Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Wrocław discontinued the proceedings initiated after the Odra disaster. The prosecutor’s investigation is still ongoing. More than 400 witnesses have been interviewed so far, and no one has been charged

At the beginning of December, the Wrocław Regional Director for Environmental Protection discontinued the damage proceedings regarding the Odra River disaster, despite numerous evidence indicating what led to the disaster that killed most of the life in this river. – No one has any doubts that in the summer of 2022, an ecological disaster on an unprecedented scale occurred in the Odra River, while the only ex officio proceedings initiated in this case have just been discontinued. This clearly shows that in the case of Odra, the state failed at every level, said Maria Włoskowicz, a lawyer at Frank Bold.

SEE: Tusk’s cleaners. Budget, Measles, youth in crisis. Who will repair the country?

Ecological disaster in the Odra River. Photos of the Volunteer Fire Department in GostchorzVolunteer Fire Department Gostchorze

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Complaint against the decision of the president of Polish Waters

Another institution that is responsible for the condition of rivers and has the authority to act ex officio is Polish Waters. They may restrict water permits for discharging salty sewage from coal mines to prevent another disaster of this type in the future. However, Polish Waters remains inactive, even after the call to action by Frank Bold and Greenpeace.

Anna Meres from Greenpeace announced that she would file a complaint to the Provincial Administrative Court against the decision of the president of Wód Polskie.

READ ALSO: Ecological disaster in the Odra River. Final report of the Institute of Environmental Protection, expert comments

– A recently published report by the Supreme Audit Office showed that the most important problem of the Oder is its salinity and the lack of actions that would limit further salinization. Despite this, both Wody Polskie and RDOŚ seem to turn a blind eye to this fact and allow further mine operations, which are harmful to the rivers, added Meres.

The organization hopes that the Prime Minister’s promise will be fulfilled Donald Tusk and “the new government will do everything to ensure that the Oder comes back to life and our other rivers are properly protected.”

A number of changes to the law are needed

As environmental organizations emphasize, changes in the law are needed to actually protect Polish rivers and prevent further disasters in the future. As Greenpeace recently revealed, golden algae has already been detected in Wisła.

– The Odra disaster revealed a number of pathologies in water management in Poland. We do not have regulations that would avoid river pollution, we do not have a system for managing crisis situations in rivers, and the state has not yet been willing to use existing repair tools – comments Maria Włoskowicz.

Ecological disaster in the Odra River. Photos of the Volunteer Fire Department in GostchorzVolunteer Fire Department Gostchorze

SEE ALSO: Disaster on the Odra River. “The candles lit, the fishermen almost cried”

In his climate and environmental demands for the new government, Frank Bold points out, among others: the need for systemic reform of water management.

Ecological disaster in the Odra River. Photos of the Volunteer Fire Department in GostchorzVolunteer Fire Department Gostchorze

Ecological disaster on the Oder

The first signals about dead fish in the Odra River appeared at the end of July 2022. Many people accused the central authorities of taking two weeks to respond to the river disaster. A ban on access to the river has been introduced in the West Pomeranian, Lubusz and Lower Silesian voivodeships.

Ecological disaster in the Odra River. Photos of the Volunteer Fire Department in GostchorzVolunteer Fire Department Gostchorze

In August, scientists detected the presence of microalgae Prymnesium parvum, the so-called golden algae. These are rare microscopic algae that generally live in coastal sea waters, but adapt to the conditions in rivers. They occur especially in industrial areas where salinity is increased and in breeding ponds and other shallow water reservoirs. Their bloom may cause the appearance of toxins that are deadly to fish and mussels.

READ MORE: Over 400 witnesses were interviewed. No one was charged

He reported the possibility of committing a crime regarding pollution in the Odra River to the District Prosecutor’s Office in Wrocław. Proceedings have been initiated. At the request of the Prosecutor General, a team of seven prosecutors and five policemen was appointed for this investigation. Over 400 witnesses have been interviewed so far in the investigation into the mass fish kills and pollution of the Oder River. So far, investigators have not charged anyone in these proceedings.

RDOŚ announcement

In response to our questions, the RDOŚ spokeswoman sent a statement. We read in it that “on August 11, 2022, the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Wrocław initiated ex officio proceedings to issue a decision in this matter.” “The proceedings were conducted in consultation with the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Opole, the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Gorzów Wielkopolski, the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Szczecin and the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Katowice, in accordance with Article 7(3) of the Damage Act. After the proceedings pursuant to the provisions of the Damage Act, by decision of December 1, 2023, the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Wrocław discontinued the proceedings regarding the ecological disaster on the Odra River,” says the RDOŚ press release. “As demonstrated in the justification of the decision to discontinue the proceedings, available research results show that the toxic golden algae bloom cannot be directly linked only to the high salinity of water in the Oder, or even more broadly – to the discharge of sewage into the Oder, mainly due to the nature of the phenomenon has a multi-factorial basis. This makes it impossible to indicate the entity or even entities responsible. In the case in question, we are dealing with a direct natural cause, but conditioned by anthropogenic factors, of an area nature, related to atmospheric and hydrological conditions, which are largely influenced by human activity also has an impact,” we read further.

In the opinion of RDOŚ, “however, this is not an activity regulated by the provisions of the Damage Act.” According to the management, “therefore, one or even several entities cannot be held responsible for the situation that occurred on the Odra River in the summer of 2022.”

“Ecological disaster”

“There is no evidence confirming that the cause of the deaths of fish and molluscs was the salinity of the Oder. The waters of the Odra River have been characterized by similar salinity for many years, and toxic blooms of Prymnesium parvum have not occurred before. Data from measurements of water parameters carried out in the Czernica reservoir and the Odra oxbow lake in Januszkowice indicate that the toxic bloom of the “golden algae” occurred at an electrolytic conductivity not exceeding 1500 uS/cm – we read in the release.

The RDOŚ spokeswoman also explains that “in 2023, significant numbers of Prymnesium parvum individuals were repeatedly found in the Łacha Jelcz reserve, with relatively low electrolytic conductivity of water and no fish deaths.”

“The above is also confirmed by observations and research conducted in the area of ​​the Szczecin Lagoon and Roztoka Odrzańska, presented in the final report, which question the direct relationship between salinity and the amount of golden algae, toxic bloom and, ultimately, death of aquatic organisms,” we read in the release. According to RDOŚ, “there are no grounds to hold jointly and severally responsible for the mass death of aquatic organisms in the Odra River the entities that discharge saline water into the Odra River.”

RDOŚ adds that “in a broad, colloquial sense, the situation that occurred on the Oder in 2022 can be described as an ecological disaster. However, it should be emphasized that not every environmental pollution or destruction in the natural environment, even of significant size, can be classified as environmental damage within the meaning of the Damage Act, which leads to exclusion of liability under this Act.

Main photo source: tvn24



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