Poland needs to monitor environmental impact of coal, energy industries’ water use -report

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s government needs a database to monitor the coal and energy industries’ high level of water consumption and its environmental impact, a think-tank advising on public policy said in a report on Tuesday.

Last year Poland’s energy industry used 5.68 cubic kilometres of water, Warsaw-based think-tank Instrat said, citing data from the Central Statistical Office.

“This is over eight times more than the volume of lake Sniardwy – the largest in Poland in terms of surface area,” the report said.

“As much as 96% of this water is not reused. The vast majority of energy is consumed by coal-fired power plants with open cooling circuits.”

Data on water consumption by the energy industry, including coal mining, may be incomplete, which, combined with inaccurate entries, results in a lack of control over the real impact of the mines on the environment, Instrat said.

According to official data, 1.4 million tonnes of sulphates and chlorides were discharged into surface waters by hard coal mines in 2022, the think-tank said, but added that the figure may be many times higher than that as official data is incomplete and some companies are discharging far more than their official permits allow.

Tons of dead fish were found last summer in the Oder river, which runs along part of Germany’s border with Poland, prompting Warsaw to embark on a crisis response that many scientists said came too late. Overgrowth of toxic golden algae linked to industrial pollution was the most likely culprit behind the mass fish deaths, they said.

But a Greenpeace study said that water salinity in the Oder’s tributaries where coal mines disgorge water was higher than that in the Baltic Sea, feeding growth of toxic algae.

(Reporting by Marek Strzelecki; Editing by Susan Fenton)