Romania, citing live tests, denies cyanide killed fish

BUCHAREST, Feb 29, 2000 -- (AFP) Romania said Monday scientific tests involving pouring cyanide-tainted water into a pool of fish had proved that a poison spill on its territory did not cause damage reported by neighboring Hungary.

The environment ministry also denied that Hungarian bears could have been killed by drinking water from the Tisza River after the poison spill in northern Romania at the end of January.

"Specialists from Apele Romane (the Romanian water utility company) poured water poisoned with cyanide at the same concentration as that which polluted the Tisza into a pool full of fish," said ministry secretary general George Lazea.

"The fish are all still alive," he said, noting that the test had been filmed.

Asked about reports by Hungarian officials that bears were found dead after drinking water from the Tisza, he told AFP: "To my knowledge there are no bears in this part of Hungary."

"And even if there were, it is winter, and at this time of year ... animals in hibernation do not come out to drink," he said.

Experts from the United Nations are analyzing water from the Tisza and other rivers after the cyanide spill at a gold mining complex jointly owned by the Romanian state and an Australian firm, Esmeralda Exploration Ltd.

Hungary says the spill killed more than 100 metric tons of fish, and reported the discovery of carcasses of bears, horses and a number of other animals along the Tisza in the weeks following the spill.

Romania has repeatedly claimed that Hungary is exaggerating the damage.

"At the moment, without in any way wanting to defend those responsible for the pollution, or to minimize the consequences, we believe that the death of fish on the Tisza is due to other causes and that the accusations made against us are wildly exaggerated," said Lazea.

Original article