Toxic water used to put out fires, admits minister

Toxic water used to put out fires, admits minister

ISTANBUL - Doğan News Agency
Toxic water used to put out fires, admits minister

Forest fire in the northwestern Kaz Mountains. DHA photo

The Forestry and Water Affairs Ministry has admitted that chemical-laden water was used to put out a forest fire in the northwestern Kaz Mountains last September, in response to a parliamentary inquiry.

The parliamentary question was posed by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Nedret Akova, who demanded whether or not toxic water was used in the firefighting, a method strongly condemned by environmental groups.

“Since there was a life-threatening situation in the villages nearby, there was a race against time,” Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu responded, “Since the nearest water source is 6.3 kilometers away, water [to put out the fire] was used from the small pond near the mine.”

“The local authority gave the order to evacuate the villages nearby,” Eroğlu added.

The water, pulled from mining pools and waste dams, had been chemically altered and was harmful to the environment, according to the Southern Marmara Environmental Protection Group.

The group even claimed that ecological life in the area, especially the fish in water sources, died following the fires.

“We now believe the deaths were caused by the toxic water,” group head Mehmet Akif Öznal said. “Authorities should have inspected the area by collecting samples. It is difficult to measure the consequences now. The real consequences of the practice will emerge when the trees start growing in the area. We will, as a foundation, press charges against whoever is responsible for giving out the order.”

Meanwhile, other environmental groups voiced concern over the possibility of toxic gas being released into the air after a fire broke out at the AKSA Acrylic Chemical Industry factory in a Marmara province Jan. 27, despite AKSA president Ahmet Dördüncü denying the claims.

Dördüncü ruled out any chances of a chemical reaction, assuring Yalova citizens that emission rates have remained below danger levels, according to tests run by independent laboratories.

“Independent laboratories measured emission levels in six different locations,” Dördüncü said. “The labs measured for levels of oxygen, hydrogen cyanide and sulfur. Nothing was found that constitutes a risk to human and environmental health.”