Koroneia disaster explained

Local and environmental authorities will meet in Thessaloniki tomorrow to discuss the results of tests which reveal that a deadly bacteria was responsible for killing almost 30,000 birds and hundreds of fish in Lake Koroneia. Samples of dead birds’ blood, the lake’s water and dead fish were sent to a special lab in England on September 20 after tests in Greece proved inconclusive. Thessaloniki prefecture officials were yesterday made aware of the lab results and promptly called a meeting with local representatives and scientists in order to agree on a plan of recovery for the area, some 20km (12 miles) east of Thessaloniki, and to discuss policies that will prevent similar disasters in the future. Kathimerini has learned that the bacteria in question was Clostridium botulinum – an anaerobic, spore-forming rod that produces a potent neurotoxin. However, English scientists asked for fresh samples in order to determine whether the bacteria causes type C or E botulism. Type C affects birds but not humans, whereas Type E is more widely transmittable. The results are expected in time for tomorrow’s meeting. This form of bacteria is quite common in lakes but it is thought that the large amount of water that was drained from Koroneia for irrigation during August, combined with heavy pollution meant it multiplied much faster than usual. At least 29 types of birds have died since the disaster was first discovered on September 8. People were warned to stay away from the area and fishing was banned in the lake. The Thessaloniki Prefecture has already proposed an agricultural and ecological program whose first phase would cost 71 million euros but experts have warned that if drastic action is not taken quickly, Koroneia’s ecosystem could collapse.