Major sewage spill hits western region, threatens waterways

  • 2007-03-07
  • By Arturas Racas
VILNIUS - Thousands of tons of sewage spilled out from reservoirs at a farming company in western Lithuania on March 4, causing a major threat to the environment. Local officials said the disaster will not have long-term negative effects.

"12,000 cubic meters spilled off the reservoirs at Grabupeliai swine-breeding farm, situated in Silute district. The incident falls under the category of an extraordinary ecological situation as the sewage spilled out into open waters," Galina Misiukeviciene, senior specialist at the Silute region's environmental protection agency, told The Baltic Times.
"We do not have the final estimates yet, but some 5,000 cubic meters of the sewage reached open waters, including the Sysa river, flowing into the Nemunas, which ends in the Curonian Lagoon," Misiukeviciene added.
The event, she said, was the result of an unfortunate accident.

"The investigation is ongoing, but it was clear that it was not an intentional spill. The sewage is stored in reservoirs each year at the company, and later in the year is used as fertilizer. But for some reason the embankment of the reservoir was broken and sewage found its way out," Misiukeviciene said.
She refused to specify the exact damage to the environment, saying the laboratory results will only be available next week.
"The investigation is also impeded by the fact that the rivers and the Curonian Lagoon are covered with ice and it is more complicated to make water tests and to see the impurities," Misiuke-viciene explained.
She confirmed the reports that dead fish were seen on the banks of Sysa, but said it is unlikely that sewage will cause damage to the Nemunas or the Curonian Lagoon.

"The amount of pollution was large, but at the same time it was likely to be quickly attenuated by the flowing water, so I do not think that the incident will have a major negative impact on the Curonian Lagoon.
The Curonian Lagoon, or Kursiu Marios in Lithuanian, skirts Curonian Spit, one the most picturesque places in Lithuania, an area that was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. The resort cities of Neringa and Nida, beloved by German tourists, are located there.

According to Misiukeviciene, the incident at Grabupeliai was undoubtedly the worst in the region in recent years.
"It caused damage to the environment and the company will be held responsible when the damage is evaluated. Our laws provide for compensation for the damage, no matter what caused the incident," the official told The Baltic Times.
"But I believe that the spill will not have a major negative impact on the environment in the region," Miseviciene added.