A fish kill in the Oder, which flows through Poland and is also a border river to Germany for about 270 kilometers, threatens to lead to violent disputes within Poland and between the two countries.

According to Polish media, since July 26, fishermen and employees of the State Water Administration have been reporting the appearance of dead fish in the stream.

On July 30 and 31, firefighters and fishermen pulled five tons of dead fish out of the river near the Silesian town of Ohlau.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

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The liberal newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" wrote on Friday, citing experts, that the solvent mesitylene is a possible cause.

Apparently, various departments of the environmental authority along the Oder blame themselves for where the chemical got into the river.

mercury exposure detected

A turning point occurred when the polluted water then reached the German border.

The Brandenburg Environment Minister Axel Vogel (Greens) said on Friday that mercury pollution had been found in the Oder.

However, "at the moment, no statement can be made that mercury is responsible for the death of the fish," said Vogel in Schwedt.

A combination of several factors such as heat, low water supply and toxins is also possible.

"It is quite possible that these are substances that have been introduced into the Oder for a long time, but normally do not pose a problem at all at mean water levels." Currently, however, there are historically low water levels on the Oder.

Such small amounts of water meant that every substance in the water was present in a higher concentration, Vogel said.

It has now been clarified that fish also died in Germany and not only animals that had already died were washed up from Poland, said the Minister for the Environment.

The spokesman for Poland's environmental agency GIOŚ said on Friday that his new analyzes ruled out an increased concentration of mercury.

"The effects are terrible"

Conservationists assume far-reaching consequences for the Lower Oder Valley National Park.

"The effects are terrible," said Deputy National Park Manager Michael Tautenhahn on Friday.

"This is simply a disaster for the national park." The wave of poisoning went through the entire Oder.

Zander, catfish, gudgeons and loach are affected.

Sea eagles and other birds could ingest poison from dead fish.

The national park is one of the most species-rich habitats in Germany.

According to statements by Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the fish kill is apparently due to the introduction of chemical waste.

"It is likely that a huge amount of chemical waste was dumped into the river with full knowledge of the risks and consequences," Morawiecki said in a video message posted on Facebook on Friday.

"The most important task now is to find the culprit, the poisoner." This is not an ordinary crime, as the damage can last for years.

"We will not rest until the guilty are severely punished."