Too close for comfort

A spill of toxic heavy metals into a river in northern Romania, some 60 miles from the border with Ukraine, has caused the latter to cut water supplies to five of its towns in the Transcarpathian region. According to an official from the regional environment authority, "A faulty hydro-transport pipeline at the Baia Borsa gold mine in Romania had broken and started to spread sludge containing zinc, lead and copper into the Cisla river'. Cisla, a tributary of the Viseu river, joins the Tisa, which in turn flows first into Ukraine and then Hungary.

A regional official said that 80 cubic meters of polluted water had been pumped out of the river and the situation was under control. There have been no cases of fish deaths as yet and officials confirm that the spill has not spread into the Viseu or the Tisa rivers. "We notified environment authorities from Ukraine and Hungary in due course,' the official commented. Hospitals have been advised to store drinking water to last for three days and residents were asked to desist from fishing for a while. Four years ago, a similar incident had occured after a dam at a local gold smelter burst in Baia Mare, spilling cyanide and heavy metals into the Danube.