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Laboratory tests following a mass death of fish in the Oder River found high levels of salinity but no mercury poisons its waters, the Polish environment minister said Saturday as the mystery continued as to what killed tons of fish in central Europe.

Anna Moskwa, minister of climate and environment, said analyzes of river samples taken in both Poland and Germany revealed high levels of salt. Comprehensive toxicological studies are still ongoing in Poland, she said.

He said the Polish state veterinary authority tested seven species of dead fish and ruled out mercury as a cause of death, but was still waiting for the results of other substances. He said test results from Germany also did not show a high presence of mercury.

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The Oder River flows from the Czechia to the border between Poland and Germany before flowing into the Baltic Sea. Some German media had suggested that the river was poisoned by mercury.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday that “huge amounts of chemical waste” were likely intentionally dumped into his country’s second longest river, causing such severe environmental damage that it would take years for the waterway to recover. .

Volunteers retrieve dead fish from the waters of the German-Polish border river Oder in Lebus, eastern Germany on Saturday, August 13, 2022.
(Patrick Pleul / dpa via AP)

On Saturday, Morawiecki vowed to do everything possible to limit the environmental devastation. The Polish Interior Minister said a reward of 1 million zlotys ($ 220,000) will be paid to anyone who helps track down those responsible for the river’s pollution.

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Authorities in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania warned people not to fish or use the water from the Szczecin lagoon, as the contaminated water from the river was supposed to reach the estuary area on Saturday evening.

“The extent of the fish’s death is shocking. This is a major blow to the Oder as a watercourse of great ecological value, from which it will presumably not recover for very long,” said Alex Vogel, minister of the environment for the German state Brandenburg, along which the river flows.

The head of Polish waters, the Polish national water management authority, said on Thursday that 10 tons of dead fish had been removed from the river. Hundreds of volunteers were working to help collect dead fish along the German side.

The German labs claimed to have detected “atypical” levels of “salts” which could be linked to death but would not fully explain them on their own.

Morawiecki acknowledged that some Polish officials were “slow” to react after huge numbers of dead fish were seen floating and washing ashore, and said two of them were fired.

“For me, however, the most important thing is to tackle this ecological disaster as soon as possible, because nature is our common heritage,” said Morawiecki.

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His comments were echoed by Schwedt Mayor Annekathrin Hoppe, whose German city is located near the Lower Oder Valley National Park. You called the river contamination “an unprecedented environmental catastrophe” for the region.

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