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Water Pollution Alert Lifted in Rhine Chemical Poison Spill

November 16, 1986|From Times Wire Services

BONN — Authorities Saturday lifted the last water pollution alerts that were posted when an estimated 30 tons of chemical poisons were dumped into the Rhine River.

The water pollution alerts were called off for two towns in the Rhine Palatinate. They already had been lifted for the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Wells in the river flood plain were closed and water pollution alerts were imposed all along the Rhine after about 30 tons of chemical poisons spilled into the river Nov. 1 during a major fire at the Sandoz chemical factory in Basel, Switzerland.

The substances turned the rivers pink and apparently caused hundreds of dead eels to float to the surface.

Other Pollutants Found

West German authorities said heavy metals, mercury and at least 33 other chemicals were found in the river after the spill. Environmental Minister Walter Wallmann estimated that about 500,000 fish and countless smaller organisms were killed in the pollution wave that flowed downstream from Switzerland through French, German and Dutch territory on its way to the North Sea.

Extensive tests made of river water after the accident showed that Sandoz could not have been the only chemical company that had poisoned the Rhine.

Ciba-Geigy belatedly admitted that 106 gallons of its herbicide Atrazin accidentally spilled into the Rhine from its Basel plant on the same day as the Sandoz accident.

Chairman Won't Resign

In Basel, the head of Sandoz said in an interview that he will not resign over the company warehouse fire and resulting ecological disaster.

In his first public comments in over a week, Chairman Marc Moret also told the daily Basler Zeitung he will hold a news conference, expected in the next fews days, to announce new measures to deal with the consequences of the blaze. He gave no more details.

"(Resignation) would be the easiest way out," Moret said in response to rumors in the Swiss press that he was considering stepping down.

"I consider it as my duty to continue my job. I must clear up the consequence of the disaster."

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