Fear of pollution post-floods upsets locals in Koroška

Prevalje/Mežica, 30 August - Potential pollution has upset locals in Koroška post-floods after a resident posted test results for soil that show excessive levels of heavy metals. While he commissioned the tests himself, the national Environment Agency (ARSO) will present its test results this afternoon.

Floods in Mežica in the north region of Koroška after a night of heavy rain on 4 August.
Photo: STA
File photo

ARSO has commissioned sampling soil and river slit at four locations in the Meža Valley after the region of Koroška was hit by catastrophic floods in early August.

The allowed content of lead and zinc has been significantly exceeded in the soil whose samples were tested by the company Envit upon commission by the local from Prevalje, who posted the test results on Facebook. The content of cadmium is also rather high.

His posting has upset the social media community, but Prevalje Mayor Matic Tasič said the municipality is awaiting the official test results before taking action.

"This has been expected, but we want to have the official data, based on which we will take action," he told the STA.

The Upper Meža Valley is polluted with heavy metals because of a lead and zinc mine, which was closed in the early 1990s, while clean-up efforts are still under way.

The mayor said that only river silt has so far been removed as part of post-flood emergency efforts, while he expects some soil will have to be removed as well.

The municipality will act based on detailed instructions from relevant authorities, he explained.

The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) did not comment on the unofficial test results posted by the local resident, saying it did not have all relevant data.

However, NIJZ will take part in interpretation of the official test results and possibly propose measures and recommendations to protect public health.

"For this, it will be very important to compare the results with the measurements that have been carried out in this part of Koroška for years," NIJZ wrote in a statement for STA.

As soon as the floods hit on 4 August, the Environment Ministry issued a set of recommendations for handling river silt, proposing using protective equipment and preventing kids from playing with it.

Floods in Koroška have exposed another environmentally-problematic practice from the past - empty car battery cases buried into the riverbank of the Meža in the town of Mežica.

The newspaper Večer reported today that "it is clear that they are related to battery production, and that they have been there for several decades".

Journalists are bound to ask battery producer TAB Mežica about them as the company gives its annual end-August news conference later in the day.

The STA has asked the environment inspectorate and the Environment Ministry for comment, but is still awaiting a reply.

© STA, 2023