Energoaqua Company Found Responsible for Becva River Poisoning in 2020

In a significant legal development, the Vsetin District Court has ruled today that the Energoaqua company was responsible for the poisoning of the Becva River in September 2020. However, the director of Energoaqua, Oldrich Havelka, has been acquitted of the poisoning charges, leading to a verdict that has stirred controversy and left environmental advocates and the public concerned.

Judge Ludmila Gerlova, presiding over the case, stated, “The court has concluded that the Energoaqua company caused the disaster on the Becva River.” Despite this determination, she added that the company was not found criminally responsible in this instance, leaving many perplexed by the verdict.

One of the key factors contributing to this outcome is the lack of concrete evidence establishing precisely what transpired within the company leading to the river’s contamination. The ambiguity surrounding the case raises questions about accountability and highlights the complexities of attributing responsibility in environmental incidents.

While the court did not convict Energoaqua, it has paved the way for potential consequences. The case has been referred to the Czech Environmental Inspectorate (CIZP), which may still pursue administrative and civil penalties against the company. This opens up the possibility that Energoaqua could face legal action or penalties in other forms related to the environmental damage.

Oldrich Havelka, the director of Energoaqua, vehemently rejected the accusations and insisted that there is no evidence supporting the company’s role in causing the environmental disaster. He stated, “I have not received any evidence that the firm did it. And if the judge has some pieces of evidence that show this, I don’t know them or I did not understand them.” Havelka also expressed relief at his acquittal on the charges.

Public prosecutor Jiri Sachr had earlier stated that the poisonous substances responsible for killing a substantial quantity of fish and other life in the river were cyanides and hexavalent chromium. The environmental disaster had a devastating impact on a 40-kilometer stretch of the Becva River in September 2020.

Before the verdict, Havelka faced the possibility of up to five years in prison, and the company faced the prospect of a substantial fine and a ban on its operations, all due to the environmental damage and endangerment it caused.

The trial, which commenced in January 2023, has garnered significant attention from both the Czech media and environmental organizations. It included testimonies from dozens of witnesses and assessments from numerous experts. The extensive file on the case contains approximately 7,000 pages, underlining the complexity and significance of this environmental litigation.

The origin of the poisonous substances that contaminated the river, as determined by the police based on expert opinion, was a canal from Roznov pod Radhostem that flowed into the Becva in the town of Valasske Mezirici. Energoaqua, operating in the compound of the former Tesla company, is headquartered in Roznov pod Radhostem.

However, some experts and local inhabitants contended that this explanation was flawed, as the first signs of fish fatalities occurred over three kilometers from the canal outfall, suggesting that the pollution may have entered the river closer to the point where the initial fish deaths were observed. The Deza chemical plant was identified as one of the companies with its outfall in closer proximity to this area.

The consequences of this verdict, as well as any potential actions by the Czech Environmental Inspectorate, remain of great interest to those concerned with environmental protection and corporate accountability in cases of significant ecological damage.

Article by Prague Forum

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