Belgrade Lodges U.N. Protest Over Alleged Phenol Spill from Kosovo

Jan. 20, 2003

Serbia sent a protest note to the top United Nations official in Kosovo yesterday, claiming that an industrial solvent had been released into a Kosovo river and polluted the water in a central Serbian town.

Phenol polluted the drinking water in Kraljevo, a town 115 kilometers (70 miles) south of the Yugoslav capital, this weekend. Residents were told not to drink the tap water and instead use water from tanks brought to the town. By Monday, the phenol had been diluted enough to make the tap water useable.

It was not immediately known whether the polluted water had sickened any people or livestock, or damaged any plants.

Belgrade alleges that the chemical had been dumped into the Sitnica River in Kosovo from storage facilities at a power plant in Obilic – just outside the provincial capital, Pristina. The Sitnica River flows into the Ibar River, which supplies Kraljevo with its drinking water.

In the protest note, addressed to Michael Steiner, Kosovo's top U.N. official, Serbia demanded that the U.N. mission in Kosovo investigate how phenol polluted the Kraljevo water.

Belgrade also demanded the U.N. mission "take measures against those who failed to warn Serbian officials of the spill." The U.N. mission in Kosovo was not immediately available for comment.

Although officially still part of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since NATO launched an air war in 1999 to stop a crackdown by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's troops on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Source: The Associated Press