Guide John of the Rhine

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The World : Europe : Netherlands. If you have any questions before you checkout, just let us know at info cities. The growth of the chemical and pharmaceutical companies poses a different threat to Rhine life. They use the Rhine both as a dump for waste water, and a source for clean water to use for cooling and as an ingredient. BASF, for example, operates an immense complex of factories and plants along the river at Ludwigshafen, employing 53, people.

Its water needs are enormous. Dietmar Kokott, the engineer in charge of its water supplies, said that the company's pumping stations suck in between million and million gallons of water a day. It now uses 10 different grades of water, from unfiltered river water for cooling to critically pure well waters, pumped up from depths of feet, for sensitive pharmaceutical production. BASF has taken several steps to protect the river that it depends on so heavily.

In , a fire on a chemical barge not owned by the company nearly destroyed huge amounts of chemical feedstocks. Alarmed by the accident, BASF built a special harbor, with remote-controlled fire fighting equipment and floodgates that could close in case of dangerous spills. IN it completed a plant capable of treating nearly million gallons. Most of the water BASF uses is for cooling, and is returned untreated to the river.

Hoechst, the world's largest chemical concern, built a similar facility at its factory at the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers, and Bayer built a treatment plant at Leverkusen. Nuclear power plants take a toll on the Rhine, as well. Seven now stand on the river's shores, with two more planned in Switzerland and Germany. Nuclear plants use water for cooling, discharging huge amounts of heated water into the river, which tends to raise the water temperature. Warmer water encourages the breeding of bacteria that rob the river of large amounts of oxygen, making it less habitable for other forms of life.

The quality of water in the Rhine probably reached its low point about ; it has gradually been improving since then. In recent years, governments along the Rhine passed legislation mandating construction of water treatment plants for cities and industry.

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Germany strictly regulates construction of new factories along the Rhine and bars large companies already operating there from increasing the amount of river water they use. Switzerland and the Netherlands have followed suit. THE Rhine is monitored around the clock for the presence of toxic substances and increases in temperature. When the temperature rises more than 2 degrees centigrade , the nuclear plants are ordered to cut their intake of cooling water.

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In January, a group of independent Swiss experts reported that the long-term effects of the Sandoz chemical spill might not be as bad as first feared. Their study indicated that the river was rapidly washing out pollution residues from the spill, and that enough small invertebrate water life and plants had survived to provide the basis for a rapid regeneration of fish and other water life. Nonetheless, serious ecological problems persist.

Existing water treatment methods do not filter out several dangerous pollutants - including mercury, cadmium and lead - that enter the river as byproducts of manufacturing processes. And according to Prof.

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Ragnar Kinzelbach, chairman of the zoology department at Darmstadt University, large amounts of nitrates from farm fertilizers sweep into the river with rainfall or seep in through ground water. While many ecologists believe that more must be done to cleanse the river, it is not clear just what action will be taken.

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Kokott agrees that pollution is still a problem, but argues that further improvements would be prohibitively expensive. For politicians, the river's fate is becoming an increasingly important issue. The Sandoz spill helped the Green Party in Germany increase its share of the popular vote to 8. Chancellor Helmut Kohl last year added a Minister for the Environment to his Cabinet, and the Government has stepped up prosecution of companies that spill industrial wastes into the river. In Switzerland and the Netherlands, the major political parties quickly adopted environmental programs to forstall the growth of independent ''Green'' parties.

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  7. They agreed to ask the Rhine Commission for specific proposals that would enable delicate animal forms such as salmon to inhabit the river by the year But France, West Germany and Switzerland objected to other recommendations made by the Dutch, such as international inspection of suspected pollution sites, arguing that they violated national sovereignty. Some fear that even the tourist industry, which has been one bright spot in the Rhine's economy in recent years, could be imperiled if steps are not taken to clean up the river.

    But for years swimming has been prohibited in the Rhine's waters for fear of residual bacteria from city sewage systems. And in hot dry summers when the river's water level drops, hotel patrons and riverboat passengers complain of the stench. Will the Rhine survive?

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    The opinions are varied, as are the proposed remedies. But if barge accidents and chemical spills have served any purpose, it has been to alert Europeans to the burden the river bears, and sound the alarm that one of Europe's main lifelines is itself badly in need of help. Log In. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers.