Danish environment ministry to be probed over polluted water

Denmark’s National Audit Office (Rigsrevisionen) is to investigate the Ministry of Environment and Food over whether it did enough to ensure the quality of drinking water.

Danish environment ministry to be probed over polluted water
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe / Ritzau Scanpix

According to public access documents obtained by broadcaster DR, the public spending auditor will scrutinize the ministry over the issue.

Drinking water has come under the spotlight in Denmark in recent months after previously unseen pesticides were found in water in the country.

Four previous unknown pesticides have been discovered in Danish drinking water since 2017.

Last week, the pesticide chlorothalonil amidosulfonic acid was found in surface water in all parts of Denmark as well as in drinking water in the village of Ledøje in northeastern Zealand, DR reported.

Following that discovery, the Danish Patient Safety Authority (Styrelsen for Patientsikkerhed) said that the substance was a potential health hazard. Subsequently, residents in the village have had to collect water from a temporary tank in the village square since last week.

The National Audit Office does not comment on ongoing cases, and Minister for the Environment and Food Jakob Ellemann-Jensen did not wish to speak to DR about the issue.

“The Ministry of Environment and Food can confirm that it will, naturally, cooperate with the National Audit Office on this matter and submit any material they ask for,” the ministry told DR in a written comment.

“The investigation is expected to be completed in November, so there is therefore not yet a report issued by the National Audit Office to which the minister can respond,” it added.

Opposition politicians have criticized Ellemann-Jensen with regard to management of drinking water.

One of the substances found in source water was “a substance the environment ministry was warned about, but didn’t test for,” Social Democrat environment spokesperson Christian Rabjerg Madsen said.

Madsen also noted the situation in Ledøje.

“It is completely unacceptable, of course, (and) we should give Danes better protection of their drinking water,” he said.

READ ALSO: Denmark's waterworks to be tested after pesticide discovery

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Greenpeace sounds alarm over Spain’s ‘poisonous mega farms’

The “uncontrolled” growth of industrial farming of livestock and poultry in Spain is causing water pollution from nitrates to soar, Greenpeace warned in a new report on Thursday.

Greenpeace sounds alarm over Spain's 'poisonous mega farms'
Pollution from hundreds of intensive pig farms played a major role in the collapse of Murcia Mar Menor saltwater lagoon. Photo: JOSEP LAGO / AFP

The number of farm animals raised in Spain has jumped by more than a third since 2015 to around 560 million in 2020, it said in the report entitled “Mega farms, poison for rural Spain”.

This “excessive and uncontrolled expansion of industrial animal farming” has had a “serious impact on water pollution from nitrates”, it said.

Three-quarters of Spain’s water tables have seen pollution from nitrates increase between 2016 and 2019, the report said citing Spanish government figures.

Nearly 29 percent of the country’s water tables had more than the amount of nitrate considered safe for drinking, according to a survey carried out by Greenpeace across Spain between April and September.

The environmental group said the government was not doing enough.

It pointed out that the amount of land deemed an “area vulnerable to nitrates” has risen to 12 million hectares in 2021, or 24 percent of Spain’s land mass, from around eight million hectares a decade ago, yet industrial farming has continued to grow.

“It is paradoxical to declare more and more areas vulnerable to nitrates”, but at the same time allow a “disproportionate rise” in the number of livestock on farms, Greenpeace said.

Pollution from hundreds of intensive pig farms played a major role in the collapse of one of Europe’s largest saltwater lagoons, the Mar Menor in Spain’s southeast, according to a media investigation published earlier this week.

Scientists blamed decades of nitrate-laden runoffs for triggering vast blooms of algae that had depleted the water of the lagoon of oxygen, leaving fish suffocating underwater.

Two environmental groups submitted a formal complaint in early October to the European Union over Spain’s failure to protect the lagoon.