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Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 09:38:21 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Pavlovic Dragan-U408 <[log in to unmask]>



The fear that the conflict in Yugoslavia could take on the
characteristics of chemical warfare due to indirect use of extremely
toxic chemicals has proven justified after several weeks of NATO

Few were those who believed that NATO would dare strike or cover with
bombs chemical plants producing exclusively for civilian production
(such as chlorine and ammonia reservoirs, and the like).

When it became evident that anything and everything in the country was
good enough target, Yugoslavia has tried to prevent chemical accidents
by closing the plants, removing chemicals, neutralizing or leaking of
the chemicals into surface flows and the ground. Such preventivc
actions were based in concerns about possible side-effects of acute
nature and immediate, but they could not have dealt with long-term

Fear and anxiety in the Yugoslav population due to the release of
poisonous chemicals, explosions, or fires, have resulted in emptying of
cooling systems within great cooling plants, which some institutions
have decided to do for safety reasons. Others have moved or leaked huge
quantities of ammonia in the waterflows out of fear of chemical

Bombing of the town of Pancevo (pop. 150,000) is perhaps the best

it is located 15 km NE of Belgrade. At one point (the night between
April 14 and 15, 1999) the NATO aggressor bombed three industrial
complexes simultaneously: the Oil Refinery, Petrochemical Plant, and
the Nitrogen Processing Plant. All three plants are within the
industrial zone of the town (ca. 8 km2), bordering on the residential
area. The nearest residential buildings are less than 150 m away the
Nitrogen Processing Plant. After the strike on the Refinery Complex,
several reservoirs were set on fire.

These had not been hit by previous NATO attack of April 12, 1999. The
reservoirs contained raw oil and derivatives. A huge cloud of thick
smoke was formed above the reservoirs, about 1.5 km wide and 3 km high,
leaving sediment of soot, ashes and dust. The last part of this cloud
was carried by the wind westwards, where it came down to the ground at
about 15 km from the explosion spot. This cloud was changing direction
in the 10-day period to follow (during the brush fire that lasted for
10 days with various intensity), so that at one moment had to be
evacuated a part of the town. In the first five of these 10 days,
concentrations of sulfur-dioxide, soot and total chlorocarbons
increased by the 4-8 times in relation to the referent border values.
This was especially the case with unburned contents of the oil:
benzene, toluene, xylenes etc., carbon-monoxide, mercaptanes,
formaldehide and the like.

At the same time Petrochemical Complex was attacked: its reservoirs
were hit by bombs; they contained vinyl-chloride-monomer (VCM - 1,200
tons), chlorine in residues, ethylene-dichloride (EDC-1,500 tons), NaOH

6,000 tons), HCl (33%; 800 tons). About 1,400 tons of EDC, 3,000 tons
of NaOH and 600 tons of HCl leaked into the Danube.

A large quantity of oil also leaked into the Danube (about 50 tons of
the emulsion) and derivatives, through a common equipment for the
treatment of wastewaters (which was not working during the NATO
agression).The VCM reservoir burned for hours, creating a whitish smoke
and a cloud that was moving westwards, toward the outskirts of Belgrade
(Borca, Ovca, Padinska Skela). The cloud was carried by low air
currents, and merged with another cloud that had been formed when the
storehouse full of fertilizer NPK was hit of the Nitrogen Processing
Plant. The VCM concentrations measured in those clouds were 3,000-4,000
times higher than the allowed values.

Increased concentrations of NOx (10 mg/m3) and phosgene (2 ppm) were
also registered. About 250 tons of liquid ammonia leaked from the
Nitrogen Processing Plant.

After the situation had been proclaimed stable (two days later) teams
from the Institute of Public Health of Belgrade and of Pancevo started
examinations and measurements of concentrations of certain matters in
the soil, surface waters and nutritive plants that were in the
territory which surrounds the targeted zone. The soil at the
Petrochemical Complex was soaked with EDC. All the chemicals that had
been released in water, was present in the surface waters, as well as
the compounds resulting from their reactions.

What is most important, concentrations of several grams per liter of
EDC were found in the deep of the river. As the result, fishing was
forbidden downstream from the town of Pancevo. According to the
examinations performed by the Institute of Biology "Dr Sinisa
Stankovic" from Belgrade, there is a decrease in the activity of the
river flora and fauna at the penetration point of the chemicals into
the Danube. A large quantity of dead fish was observed in the area 30-
40 km downstream from Pancevo.

Pancevo is only one among the locations where a unique experiment with
the human population has been performed in vivo.

Just a few days after the Pancevo accident, NATO planes bombed a great
transformer station in Belgrade. On that occasion, the quantity of 150
tons of the special transformer-plant oil leaked from. Through a canal
system, the oil reached the Rakovica Stream and the Topcider Rivulet,
the right tributary to the river Sava. Being aware of the chemical
dangers of this type of oil, professionals fought for seven days to
collect the oil from the surface of the river and to prevent the
contamination of the Sava River.

Their success was, unfortunately, only partial.

The bombings of the Baric industrial zone caused the Sava river to
accumulate great quantities of hydrogenfluoride (HF; 99.9%), HNO3
(concentrated) and about 200 tons of liquid ammonia. All this
necessitated regimen perforation of the Belgrade Waterworks.

The consequences of NATO attacks on the Pancevo Refinery and other
industrial complexes are still being examinad detail in the days to
come. An curions aspect of the NATO agression was the striking of the
LPG spheres in Novi Sad, where it was obvious that the aggressor had
wanted to provoke the explosion of gaseous substance, thus causing as
severe ecological damage as possible.

Finally, the majority of the chemical plants not related in any way to
the military production of any kind has been damaged or completely

The Yugoslav population is wandering how to chlorinate drinking water
if they are forbidden to start the production of chlorine? They would
like to know how the cooling plants are supposed to operate without

The examination of the consequences of the heavy strikes by NATO on the
Novi Sad Refinery and other chemical plants will be the subject of our
further communications.

Dr Slobodan Tosovic, Senior Specialist
Head of the Department for Ecotoxicology
Institute of Public Health of Belgrade

Professor Dr Bogdan Solaja
Co-Chairman of the Serbian Chemical Society

Dragan Pavlovic
UFR Xavier Bichat. INSERM U408
16, rue Henri Huchard - BP 416
75870 Paris cedex 18
Tel: (33) 01 44 85 62 50; 01 56 24 90 99; (33) 06 13 26 31 25
Fax: (33) 01 56 24 90 99; (33) 01 40 25 88 18 or (33) 01 42 26
33 30
Email:[log in to unmask]