Bulgaria finds high cyanide content in Danube

SOFIA, Feb 20, 2000 -- (Reuters) Cyanide levels in the river Danube exceeded permitted limits on Saturday, according to Bulgaria's National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA).

Large quantities of cyanide spilled into an upstream tributary last month, causing one of eastern Europe's worst environmental disasters.

Tests taken on Saturday morning near the beginning of the Bulgarian stretch of the Danube showed cyanide concentration of 0.139 milligrams per liter, exceeding the maximum allowed level of 0.1 milligrams per liter, NEPA said.

"The poisoning of the Danube upstream was extremely severe," NEPA chief Dimitar Kantardjiev told Reuters. "The cyanide concentration still exceeds maximum allowed levels even after flowing such a long distance downstream."

The spill, from an industrial plant in Romania, reached Bulgaria on Friday. Samples taken then and earlier on Saturday showed cyanide concentration rising but still slightly below the limit, said Kantardjiev.

The Bulgarian government has banned fishing and use of water along the Danube. A few dead fish were found on Friday and sent for tests. The results are expected on Monday.

On Friday, Serbia said the concentration of the poisonous chemical in its stretch of the Danube was well within permitted levels after exceeding them by 50 times earlier in the week.

The Danube, Europe's largest waterway, forms Bulgaria's border with Romania over more than 800 km (500 miles) before flowing into the Black Sea. The river's delta is the site of one of Europe's major nature reserves.

Original article