The Spĝrring River is a small narrow river off of the Lilleċ River and a subsidiary of the Guden River, one of the biggest producers of seatrout smolt in Europe. The Spĝrring River starts northwest of Aarhus, and continues towards the Lilleċ River near Selling in the Hadsten community. The Lilleċ River, in turn, joins the Guden River north of Hadsten town, at a place called Langċ. Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark, after Copenhagen, and lies on the eastcoast of Jutland, on mainland Denmark.
On, April 26, 2002, it was reported that the 10 kilometers stretch of the Spĝrring River was completely destroyed, with all of the fish killed and up to 80 percent of a 15 kilometers stretch of the Lilleċ River. It is estimated that approx. 30,000 fish have been killed.
The pollution came from a company that is based approximately 20 kilometers north of Aarhus and is called Biogas. It stores gas from household food waste, collected around the local community, which is then decomposed and the gas stored in special tanks.
It was on a Tuesday night when the alarm was raised and the authorities were contacted. A representative from the Biogas Company reported that the situation was under control.
It was the following morning, however, that the full extent of the damage was realized. It was reported that about 15 tons of amonia went into the river, but fishery and environmental authorities are of the opinion, that the quantity was much higher, almost double, by their calculations.
It was also stated that had the problem been given full attention with the correct information in time, it is reckoned that a much lower percentage of damage would have been caused, in fact, authorities stated somewhere between 60/70 percent less damage, had the truth been told. There is to be a full investigation into this disaster and why authorities were no made aware of the full information, which was delayed by some 24 hours.
The spillage even reached a hatchery almost 30 kilometers away from where the spillage occurred, killing fish in the ponds there. This is an example of extent of the damage caused. A rough percentage of about 80 percent of the fish were killed on the 15 kilometers polluted stretch of the Lilleċ River.
As I walked along the banks of the river some of the spillage outflow could still be seen in quieter flowing waters, along with hundreds of dead fish, caught in the sand banks, weeds and washed up on the edges of the river. Most of the dead fish were close to the banks or in weeds, as plants produce oxygen and they were trying to get what supply was left,
Electro fishing techniques were used today to try and evaluate the number of fish that survived. A very mild wattage of electricity is used to stun the fish so that they can be checked for damage, measured and returned to the river. In one of the worst struck areas on the Lilleċ River, where 100 trout were caught last autumn, for reproduction purposes, on a 50 meters stretch, there were only 7 found today.
This would mean that the 10 kilometers stretch of the Spĝrring River has been completely destroyed and depleted of fish and also of fresh water shrimp, which the trout depend upon, as part of their diet, along with other life giving sources and 80 percent of the Lilleċ River.
The main Guden River itself was not affected. But this does not mean that the fishing communities were not and will not be affected in the coming future. Fishing has a very long tradition in this part of Denmark with 3 fishing clubs on this stretch of river alone.
As the government is slow to give money to the fishing authorities and it is the local fishing clubs that protects the rivers and keeps them alive. With the ongoing efforts of these clubs this is being achieved by, for example, the electro fishing in the autumn, giving a new supply of fish for restocking the rivers and it keeps the population of the fish high and alive.
Some of the biggest seatrout have been caught on these waters for the volume of water it produces. Last year on this stretch of the Lilleċ River, a 13.6 kgs seatrout was taken from the river. The Lilleċ River is a perfect place for spawning, with gravel banks and in some places low slow water, where fish can rest and it allows the fish to swim into the heart of the Danish country without too much trouble. This enables the fish to be fresh at spawning season and with the quality and quantity of food available; they are strong when they migrate back to sea later on in the year. It is a river that contains the best feeding for the seatrout and especially the smolt.
The Lilleċ river and all of its subsidiaries are not restocked by the local fishing club now, like some of the other rivers here in Denmark, as the number of natural seatrout coming back for spawning is extremely high. The Lilleċ River produces the largest stock of seatrout smolt in Europe today, compared to the size of the river.
The normal penalty for this kind of pollution here in Denmark is for the company involved in causing this destruction to clean the river and restock the fish supplies. They are also given a fine for this form of destruction. Whether this is likely to happen or not remains to be seen.
But serious steps need to be taken to prevent this kind of spillage from ever happening again, and the hope is that valuable lessons are learnt from this. Fishing clubs and the fishing authorities can only do so much. Government bodies need to crack down on companies that are built close to rivers.