Cyanide Could Poison Food Chain

February 13, 2000

A
cyanide spill that polluted two European rivers will "poison the whole food
chain'' for years to come, according to a Hungarian environmental official.



Zoltan
Illes, the head of Hungary's environmental committee in parliament, repeated
assertions that the spill that contaminated the Danube and Tisa rivers
represents "the biggest environmental catastrophe since Chernobyl,'' the
world's worst nuclear accident.



"The
fact that heavy metals also got into the rivers means an even worse problem''
than the cyanide, he said in a television interview. "It will poison the
whole food chain.''



Illes
spoke a day after the cyanide spill reached Yugoslavia's stretch of the Danube,
leaving dead fish in its wake. Even as the poison diminished to non-lethal
levels, Serbian officials said they would sue those responsible in an
international court.



The
European Union Commission has said it was ready to help Hungary and Romania deal
with the cyanide spill and will send its top environment official to assess the
damage.



The
spill originated in northwestern Romania, where a dam at the Baia Mare gold mine
overflowed Jan. 30, causing cyanide to pour into streams. A cyanide solution is
used to separate gold ore from surrounding rock. The polluted water flowed west
into Hungary and then to Yugoslavia, a federation made up of the republics of
Serbia and Montenegro.

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