A massive pollution scandal is unfolding on Berlin’s doorstep. It has been discovered that Berlin’s drinking water is being polluted with sulfate from a huge coal mine in Brandenburg.
The coal mine, run by the Swedish energy company Vattenfall, has been operating for decades near the town of Welzow, about 150km south of Berlin. The coal it is digging up lignite, or brown coal, which is a particularly dirty kind of coal that produces far higher greenhouse gasses than black coal. Not only that, but the mine itself has been pumping its waste water into the Spree river for years. It has claimed that the water is treated and cleaned before it is discharged.
But now water tests in Berlin have found that the amount of sulfate in the river has increased to above 300 milligrams. Scientists say that 250 mg is the safe limit. Above that, the sulfate starts to erode the concrete infrastructure of the city’s water system, and it starts affecting people’s health from 600 mg. For now the water coming out of your tap is still safe to drink.
The opening of a second coal mine in Welzow is currently planned but disputed. Some locals fear for their houses, which stand on mining ground. Others fear for their livelihood if the plans for the new mine don’t go ahead, as the regions economy is largely built on coal-mining, which has a more than 100 year tradition here. Photo by GuenterHH on Flickr.
Radio Spaetkauf is Berlin’s news show. On this episode: Europe’s refugee crisis is hitting Berlin. Over 550 asylum seekers are arriving each day to seek a safer life. The city’s bureaucrats are struggling to keep up with the influx, but volunteers are helping hand out water bottles as refugees wait in the hot sun to file their applications for asylum. The actor Til Schweiger has stepped in to call for more shelters for refugees, which has earned him our respect.
Got a problem getting into the Bürgeramt to register your address? A startup has created a website where you can book an appointment at short notice for between €25 and €45. However it appears to operate by booking all the available appointments, then selling them back to desperate citizens.
The BER airport is in trouble again, this time because one of the main contractors has filed for insolvency. That means the much-delayed opening date of late 2017 may be pushed back even further.
Wondering why there are so many wasps around this summer? Our animal kingdom expert Jöran has the answer.
Got a comment or question for the show? Write in to email@example.com.
Jöran Mandik takes us on an architectural audio tour of the Amerika-Gedenk Bibliothek, which has a few surprising secrets: there’s a one-person cinema for watching forbidden films, and a piano room where you can practice your scales.
Have you ever paid attention to the lettering on the station signs on the U-Bahn?
We interview typographer Anton Koovit, who has created a font called U8 based on the U-Bahn station signage. As Anton discovered, the original font was created in the 1920s but was promptly forgotten, and the existing signs are rotting away without proper restoration.
He spent months creating a digital version of the U8 font to ensure it does not disappear entirely. During out extended interview, Anton shares some other interesting discoveries about the Berlin underground transport system.