As a result of extreme precipitation in August 2002 major flooding occurred in the catchment area of the rivers Elbe, Vltava (Moldau) and Mulde. Pollutants from industrial sites and from municipal sewage treatment works (STW) entered the Elbe and led to a serious pollution problem in the river. PCDD/F concentrations (in pg WHO-TEQ/g dw) in SPM ranged from 7-150, in sediments from 3-140; the “safe sediment value” of 20 was exceeded in 46% of the samples. 24 eels showed a wide concentration variation for these contaminants. The WHO-PCDD/F+PCB-TEQ values lay in the range from 11-56 pg/g ww, whereby the WHO-PCB-TEQ values were several times higher than the WHO-PCDD/F-TEQ values. The maximum permitted value of 4 pg WHO-PCDD/F/g ww (EU Directive No. 2375/2001) was reached or exceeded in 54% of the individuals. A statistical analysis using data from SPM and sediment samples showed that in the Czech river section the flooding activated a contamination source in the vicinity of the Spolana works. The influence of the tributary Mulde could be clearly demonstrated. Only a major clean-up of the contaminated sites in Bitterfeld can lead to a mid to long term improvement in respect of PCDD/F and dioxin-like PCB input into the Elbe.

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