LUDWIGSHAFEN, West Germany — An accident at the chemical works of the BASF company early today caused more than a ton of a mildly toxic herbicide to spill into the Rhine River, authorities said.
The announcement came three weeks after a spill at the Sandoz chemical plant in Basel, Switzerland, caused major ecological damage to the river, killing 500,000 fish and polluting drinking water in four countries.
The environmental ministry of the state of Rhineland Palatinate said a breakdown in a BASF cooling system permitted 2,420 pounds of dichlorphenoxy acetic acid to flow into the river.
Company officials said the chemical would be rendered harmless by dilution in the river and there was no need to fear for the environment or human health.
Nevertheless, the spill touched off an international pollution alarm system, notifying water authorities of imminent contamination.