Madrid – Officials in Spain’s Galicia region battled to reduce a highly toxic river spill on Sunday in yet another environmental blow for the verdant region following dramatic summer forest fires.
A poisonous five-km (three-mile) stain, caused by a fire at a chemicals plant near the River Umia in the province of Pontevedra, and heading slowly towards the sea meant that residents could not drink tap water, the Galician regional government said in a statement.
Media showed footage of the river, a cloudy turquoise colour peppered with dead fish.
As a precautionary measure, officials closed two shellfish banks at the mouth of the river, and were seeking alternative water supplies for around 80,000 people affected, as estimated by local media.
“There is no doubt that we will have to seek action (against the chemicals firm) for an environmental crime of tremendous magnitude,” Manuel Vazquez, a member of the Galician regional government, told reporters.
The government said it was taking various measures to try to filter the river and reduce the toxicity of the spill.
This is yet another blow for the environment in one of Spain’s most prized regions for fish and shellfish, which in 2003 suffered a huge oil spill along its coastline from an old oil tanker, the Prestige.
Police arrested some 30 people earlier this year in connection with fires and authorities have pointed the finger of blame at warring neighbours, property speculators, pyromaniacs and unemployed fire-fighters seeking work.
Some 86,000 hectares (212,500 acres) of Galicia’s pine, eucalyptus and oak forests have been burnt down so far this year.