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Mining Company Officials Arrested for Cyanide Pollution of Two Rivers

Cyanide pollution in the Yugovska and Chepelarska rivers in Southern Bulgaria is 20 times the safety limit, Tsvetelina Kuneva, head of the East Aegean Region Basin Directorate (EARBD), said on Saturday. The Yugovska flows into the Chepelarska, which is a right-bank tributary of the Maritsa.

The CEO of the Lucky Invest mining and quarrying company and the  company tailings pond head officer were arrested on suspicion of being responsible for the pollution and were taken into 24-hour custody, the Plovdiv Directorate of the Interior Ministry said. Pretrial proceedings have been launched in connection with the case.

Earlier on Saturday, Environment and Water Minister Emil Dimitrov, Plovdiv Regional Governor Dani Kanazireva and other public officials inspected the area.

The pollution was detected on Friday after a surprise check by the EARBD and the Smolyan Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water (RIEW). It was ascertained that the Lucky Invest plant  was non-operational and its pumps were off, causing polluted water to overflow the rim of the tailings pond settler and spill  into the river, RIEW Director Ekaterina Gadjeva said.

Minister Dimitrov said that all competent institutions were notified of the situation as soon as the alert was received. Dimitrov noted: "When we went there, we saw that the pumps were on. That is to say, actions had been taken to mitigate the effects and to present the situation in a different light."  Water from the polluted rivers is not currently being used for irrigation. so there is no risk of polluting farm land. Water supply to a local fishery has been suspended, Irrigation Systems  Company Executive Director Snezhina Dineva said.

Lucky Invest will be penalized and will be ordered to halt any outflow of waste water from its plant. The plant should stay out  of operation until the tailings pond settler is cut off from the river, Gadjeva said.

According to Plovdiv Regional Governor Dani Kanazireva, Lucky Invest obviously channelled its waste water into the river deliberately, "which is unacceptable and verges on crime." There  is no risk for potable water in the area, she added.

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