Today, our activists blocked a discharge into the Oder of high-salinity wastewater from the Halemba Coal Mine. This is our answer to idleness of the Ministry of Climate and Environment, who failed to take any action in order to protect the Oder from another ecological disaster, like the one last year. “Save the Oder.” “Rivers are no salt cellars.” “This coal mine poisons the Oder.” Those were the slogans on the banners we held during the blockade. Our activists demand immediate limits on the saline discharges by coal mines and creation of the Lower Oder Valley National Park.

Greenpeace activists, shocked by the idleness of the government, decided to take action and save the Oder from another disaster. Using a metal curtain, our activists symbolically blocked a discharge of high-salinity wastewater from the Halemba Coal Mine. The wastewater discharged from this coal mine has a nearly two times higher salinity than the Baltic Sea water. Halemba is one of the numerous coal mines in Silesia that discharges brine drained from coal deposits directly into an Oder tributary. 

“I came here to protest against the scandalous idleness of the government in the face of the upcoming disaster. The profits of coal mining companies are treated as more important than our rivers and our right to live in a safe and clean environment. I cannot accept that. I won’t sit back and watch as our government allows the Oder to be poisoned in front of our eyes and fully legally. What kind of law is that, if it allows the rivers to be destroyed? I’ve had enough. I demand a reaction from Minister Moskwa: she needs to start fulfilling her duties” – said Michał Wnuk, an activist taking part in the blockade.

Greenpeace appeals to the Minister of Climate and Environment Anna Moskwa and to the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Marek Gróbarczyk, who oversees the Polish Waters, to stop the mock activities and urgently protect the Oder from another disaster. The following actions are required:

  • Carry out the environmental impact evaluations for the coal mines, as required by law
  • Reduce the allowed chloride and sulphide concentrations (which will result in reduced salinity) in the wastewater discharged into the rivers
  • Impose on the coal mines the use of modern technologies to desalinate groundwaters drained from coal deposits and discharged into the Oder and other Polish rivers
  • Create the Lower Oder Valley National Park

“Summer is coming, but instead of looking forward to warm and sunny days, we are terrified by what awaits us. High temperatures and low level of water in the rivers, together with high salinity, will create favourable conditions for another bloom of the toxic algae that will kill off the Oder’s wildlife. The government is standing by helplessly. The continued Oder monitoring only confirms what we have repeated for a long time: the condition of the river is poor. Minister Moskwa, in her disgraceful comments, claims that everything is according to the law. If the law allows the coal mines to create conditions for another disaster, this law needs to be changed. We have to limit the discharge of brine radically – comments Anna Meres, Greenpeace Climate Campaign Coordinator.

In less than 3 months, it will have been a year since the 2022 Oder Environmental Disaster, which shocked the whole Poland. Meanwhile, coal mines continue to discharge huge amounts of high-salinity waters drained from coal deposits into the Oder and Vistula tributaries. The Report published by the government clearly states that the mines are responsible for discharging the highest amount of chlorides and sulphides in the Oder basin, amounting to up to 72% of their total wastewater content. This confirms that it is coal mining companies that are responsible for high water salinity in the Oder, which led to the golden algal bloom. The toxin produced by these algae led to a massive fish die-off and a huge environmental disaster last year. 

The Oder monitoring introduced by the government shows that its salinity level is above the norms in each control and measurement point along practically the whole river. Nevertheless, the Minister of Climate and Environment Anna Moskwa and the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Marek Gróbarczyk failed to take necessary action to save the Oder from another catastrophe. Coal mining companies, with certificates issued by the Polish Waters, are still legally allowed to discharge high-salinity wastewater into the Polish rivers. At the same time, Minister Moskwa turns the blind eye to the fact that these mines operate without legally required environmental impact evaluations.