Toxic spill feared causing permanent damage on way to sea

DONANA PARK, Spain (AP) — A flood of toxic waste is leaving a swath of contaminated mud on its path to the sea, endangering millions of birds and other wildlife in southern Spain, environmentalists warned Monday.
Hastily constructed dikes diverted the toxic liquid away from Donana Park, one of Europe’s most prized nature reserves, and toward the Guadalquivir River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean 37 miles downstream.
But the spill, caused when a mine reservoir burst Saturday, has left a huge area of toxic mud around the reserve, threatening the 6 million migratory birds who flock each year to its salt marshes, as well as the lynx, otters, eagles and other endangered wildlife who live there.
Attention turned Monday to evaluating the extent of the damage and determining who was to blame.
Environmentalists said the spill still was not completely controlled and accused authorities of downplaying the consequences to the 185,000-acre Donana Park reserve, 25 miles southwest of Seville.
Research chemist Francisco Cabrera said damage from the spill could be permanent because of the difficulty of purging land and river sediments of the heavy metal residues, the independent Europa Press reported.
The toxic liquid contains residues of cadmium, zinc and other metals.
The Greenpeace flagship was on its way to the area, and spokeswoman Eva Hernandez said Monday the waste posed a serious danger as it flowed toward the Atlantic.
Park species feed in the contaminated area and nothing can prevent the toxins from seeping into the park’s ground water.
Greenpeace and other groups called for legal action against Boliden Ltd., the Canadian company that owns the Los Frailes mine, which produces zinc, copper, lead and silver. They also blame authorities for permitting the operation just 35 miles north of Donana.