International action for more protection in a hazardous incident

firemen with boats on a riverClick to enlarge
German-Polish emergency drill exercise on the Odra river in Brandenburg.
Source: Gerhard Winkelmann-Oei / UBA

UBA is engaged in transboundary efforts to improve the protection of man and the environment, for example in the case of fires at industrial facilities or oil spills. In September 2017 UBA launched a joint emergency exercise with the German and Polish fire brigade and organised a seminar on how to prevent transboundary pollution by contaminated fire-water.

The German-Polish border in Brandenburg runs along the middle of the Odra river. If an oil tanker were to have an accident on the river, it is important for both countries to collaborate easily and effectively. The transboundary emergency exercise was initiated by UBA as the German leader of the delegation in the responsible working group of the International Commission for the Protection of the Odra River against Pollution (IKSO) and the Ministry of Interior of Land Brandenburg.

Firefighters from the Odra-Spree region in Brandenburg and Polish fire brigades from the Lubuskie region took part in a simulated oil tanker spill incident near Ratzdorf in Brandenburg on 4 September 2017.

The exercise was followed up on 5 September 2017 by an international seminar on the topic of fire-water retention at Collegium Polonicum in Slubice, Poland.

The seminar for which UBA prepared the agenda took place under the auspices of the IKSO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The focus of discussion was the first draft of the new UNECE Guideline for Fire-Water Retention which was drawn up by a UNECE Joint Expert Group on Water and Industrial Accidents.

The draft guidance document by the UNECE represents a first attempt to establish minimum technical standards in fire-water retention in all the UNECE member states so as to prevent a reoccurrence of a catastrophe like the Sandoz accident in 1986. The fire water used to extinguish the fire which had broken out at the chemical plant reached the Rhine river, releasing a large volume of toxic chemicals and decimating fish stocks. The incident contaminated long stretches of the Rhine in Germany and the Netherlands.

A second draft of the guidance document will be published in October 2017 as the outcome of the seminar, and then forwarded to international organizations and associations for further comments. The final version is to be presented to the signatories of the UNECE Industrial Accidents Convention and Water Convention in October and December 2018, respectively.

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