Serbian officials say they have uncovered a stockpile of highly toxic waste materials illegally buried in containers at a private property near the capital, Belgrade.
The Serbian Environment Ministry said on December 29 that a cache of some 25 tons of chemical waste, including benzene and toluene, was buried in poorly sealed barrels in a storage area in the town of Obrenovac, about 50 kilometers southwest of Belgrade.
An environmental official told reporters that the police action helped avert "an environmental catastrophe."
Officials said tests were being conducted to determine if the waste had contaminated nearby soil and wells.
Police said they detained the property owner, who could face charges of endangering public safety.
Pollution is a major problem in Serbia after years of environmental mismanagement and the continued operation of inefficient industrial plants.
As part of the Balkan country’s efforts to become eligible for European Union membership, Belgrade is in talks with the bloc regarding its environmental situation.
Experts have said it will take at least $18 billion to bring conditions up to EU standards.