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Toxic Tuzla

(TUZLA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, January 10) — The northern Bosnia city of Tuzla, base of air operations for U.S. troops in the Balkans, suffers from the same post-Communist environmental woes found in eastern Germany. For overall toxicity and discharges of pollution, the city of Tuzla is by far the worst environmental offender in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Toxic Tuzla

Tuzla has three major environmental offenders. A Tito-era, coal-fired power plant seems to be operating on its last legs. Salt mines running beneath much of the city are said to be weakening the superstructures of Tuzla's major buildings. Textile mills discharging industrial wastes directly into the Spreca River are also present.

The power plant pumps an estimated 10 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air on a daily basis. Tuzla's valley location traps the cloud close to the ground, especially in cold weather. When an inversion layer settles in, Tuzla's skies darken to an eerie twilight not unlike an eclipse of the sun. The sulfurous fog reduces visibility to 50 yards or less and emits a lingering odor that sticks in the nose and throat.

The plant was built to provide 800 megawatts of power for Yugoslavia. Today, because of old and broken equipment, the Tuzla generator is operating at a fraction of its planned wattage, causing frequent, temporary blackouts in Tuzla itself. It is illegal to photograph the plant, which resembles a science fiction movie set, black and forbidding as it sends aloft ominous white clouds.

The very human impact of those clouds can be seen at the childrens' clinic in Tuzla that treats around 100 young patients for respiratory ailments each month. Typical care includes antibiotics for the lesions that develop in the childrens' lungs. Those who can afford it routinely send their children on out-of-town summer vacations to help clear their lungs and respiratory systems.

According to Pentagon sources here, there are no plans to address the issue of the power plant. Their objective, of course, is to move an armored division into potentially-hostile country, across a water obstacle that gave the Roman armies fits. There is, however, growing consideration of toxic fallout from battlefields. The images of Kuwait's burning oil fields are fresh memories. Warring nations have yet to file environmental impact reports before attacking their neighbors, but the fallout from battles fought in industrialized zones, especially the aging Communist variety, is of concern not only to the victim nation, but to the foreign soldiers there to take, or defend the toxic battlefield.