Significant pollution of the fish

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Fish in the Dortmund-Ems Canal continue to be polluted

The pollution of fish in the Dortmund-Ems Canal is still significantly increased after the tanker explosion at the Lingen refinery port, according to an official announcement from the Emsland district. The environmental protection association NABU had warned immediately after the catastrophe that the released pollutants as toxic deposits in the sediment can lead to pollution over a longer period of time even with newly immigrating fish.

The concerns of conservationists have apparently been confirmed. Around a month after the tanker "Alpsray" exploded in the Lingen refinery port, the fish in the Dortmund-Ems Canal are still heavily contaminated, said a spokesman for the Emsland district. The explosion of the tanker and the subsequent extinguishing work caused a regional environmental disaster, in which thousands of fish died in the Dortmund-Ems Canal.

Pollution of living fish increased by 20 times According to information from the district of Emsland, the pollutants of dead fish examined so far were so-called perfluorinated surfactants (PFOS) five to ten times higher than the usual background pollution. The PFOS burden on live fish is even increased 20-fold, according to the official announcement. The unfortunate thing is that the chemical PFOS did not reach the Dortmund-Ems Canal directly from the accident, but through the necessary fire-fighting work. Because the surfactants are part of the extinguishing foam. So far, however, it has not been finally clarified which pollutants still flowed into the river. In addition to the extinguishing foam, however, thousands of liters of petrol definitely flowed into the sewer, so that "a highly toxic water-soluble emulsion" formed there, explained the biologist Jutta Over from NABU Emsland. This emulsion is "absorbed by aquatic animals through the skin and gills", so that the result is considerable pollution. Since toxic deposits accumulate in the area of ​​the river bed, stones and riparian trees, the river will probably remain contaminated for a long time, the conservationist explained. These concerns are unfortunately confirmed by the current results of the State Office for Consumer Protection (LAVES) in Oldenburg, which had checked the pollution of fish on behalf of the district of Emsland.

Lack of oxygen in the river the sole cause of fish death? According to the Emsland district, the oxygen deficiency in the river caused by the extinguishing of the extinguishing foam has been overcome since mid-April and the oxygen values ​​are now in the “green zone” at around ten milligrams per liter, according to the authorities. The lack of oxygen was officially blamed as the main reason for the massive fish death immediately after the catastrophe, although the NABU contradicted this description from the start. For example, the biologist Jutta Over told the "Meppener Tagespost" that the temporary lack of oxygen due to the breakdown of the extinguishing foam is not sufficient to explain the fish death. The conservationists also massively criticized the district's crisis management, as the canal was released for shipping just two days after the tanker explosion. As a result, the large amounts of the emulsion made of extinguishing foam and gasoline that were still in the river were repeatedly foamed and carried on. The pursued goal of dilution should also be understood as a bad emergency solution, since the pollutants accumulate over time even at rather harmless concentrations and can cause considerable damage in the long term.

Investigation into the causes of the explosion initiated In addition to the investigations into the environmental impact of the tanker explosion, investigations into the possible causes of the explosion in the refinery port of Lingen are being carried out in parallel. As the Osnabrück chief prosecutor Alexander Retemeyer confirmed in an interview with the broadcaster “NDR 1 Niedersachsen”, preliminary proceedings were initiated against several people. So far, it is unclear who the suspects are and how exactly an accusation could turn out. So far, it remains open whether it was technical or human error that caused the disaster, the chief prosecutor said. (fp)

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Image: Photo: NABU / Helge May

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