Both collectors of the "Czajka" sewage treatment plant are inefficient and virtually all waste flows into the Vistula, the threat after the failure may last several weeks, said the Environment Minister Henryk Kowalczyk on Wednesday at a conference held after the giant sewage spill affected the Vistula River in an area of northern Warsaw.
Mr Kowalczyk stated that the water supply company in Warsaw sent information on the accident to the Provincial Inspectorate for Environmental Protection before noon. According to the letter, “the failure had started on Tuesday around 5am".
"Keeping this type of failure secret is a great irresponsibility. So much could have been done during so many hours, actually more than a day," he stressed.
In reply to his words, the head of the Municipal Water Supply and Sewerage Enterprise Renata Tomusiak said that it had only been on Wednesday morning when the second collector stopped working, and, in line with the legislation, that was when the enterprise was obliged to call the services.
“That’s exactly what we did. I want to deny all the allegations that we have neglected the case,” she said.
The amount of sewage that may have been spilled into the Vistula by the end of the day is estimated to be 260,000 cubic meters. Every second around 3,000 litres of sewage (3 cubic metres) spill into the river.
“At such a low water level, this is a huge concentration of pollution,” Minister Kowalczyk said. According to him the sewage flowing into the river poses a threat to human health and the environment.
"It will definitely cause huge environmental damage. It is going to be an environmental disaster," he stated, adding that the threat after a failure in the wastewater treatment plant "Czajka" may last for about a month.
Other cities’ authorities wait
“We have already taken samples from the river for further examination. We are doing everything we can to ensure that nobody will come into contact with the spill,” said deputy head of the Provincial Environmental Protection Inspectorate.
In reaction to the pollution of the Vistula river that was caused by the large sewage spill in the northern part of Warsaw, the city council of Płock, located to the north of Warsaw, has set up a crisis office meeting.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Płock authorities announced that in the opinion of the local sewage management company, “residents of the city are not in danger for now”.
“We estimate that the polluted water will reach Płock by Friday noon,” the statement wrote.
The authorities of several other cities besides the Vistula are treating the decision of Płock as a yardstick and await further developments.
“We are in constant contact with the services, and we control the water quality,” said the spokesperson of Toruń’s Mayor.
The local prosecutor’s office has already launched an investigation into the case.