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Poland says tests indicate mercury not cause of fish die-off in Oder

Poland said laboratory tests to investigate a massive fish die-off in the Oder River showed high salt levels but no mercury poisoning its waters.

Analyses of river samples taken in both Poland and Germany detected high levels of salinity but no mercury, Anna Moskwa, Poland’s minister of climate and environment, said on Saturday, according to media reports. Toxicology studies are still ongoing in Poland, she said.

Moskwa said Poland’s state veterinary authority tested seven species of the dead fish and ruled out mercury as the cause of the die-off but was still waiting for results of other substances, the Associated Press reported. She said test results from Germany had also not shown a high presence of mercury, the AP said.

Thousands of dead fish have been found along the Oder River running between Poland and Germany, with both countries warning of an ecological disaster.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the fish deaths “exceptionally scandalous” earlier this week. “Those responsible for it will be severely punished,” he said.

Late Friday Morawiecki fired the head of the country’s national water management authority, Przemyslaw Daca, and the head of the general environmental inspectorate, Michal Mistrzak, saying that their institutions should have reacted sooner, Reuters reported.

Polish Water said on Thursday that initial tests found toxic substances in the river, and authorities on Friday issued a warning for people not to bathe in the Oder. “We are most likely dealing with a crime where a substance was introduced into the water that caused fish and other organisms to die,” Deputy Climate and Environment Minister Jacek Ozdoba said on Thursday.

German broadcaster RBB reported on Thursday that “high levels of mercury” were found in water samples from the Oder.

Morawiecki on Saturday vowed to do everything possible to limit the environmental damage. Poland’s interior minister offered a reward to anyone who helps track down those responsible for polluting the river, according to the AP.

The ministry of environment of the German state of Brandenburg earlier this week accused Poland of keeping the problem under cover. “It must be said that the reporting chains between the Polish and German sides did not work in this case,” Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel said.


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