Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea said on Thursday, January 31, that she sent a letter to president Klaus Iohannis, to the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and to the Country’s Supreme Defense Council (CSAT) asking them to bring light into the scandal related to the quality of drinking water in the Capital.
She said that utility company Apa Nova, which supplies Bucharest with drinking water, and the Public Health Direction (DSP) have presented different conclusions after analyzing the water samples taken from several points in Bucharest. While Apa Nova said the water is good for consumption, the DSP announced that chlorine levels were over the legal limit in some samples and the Health Ministry issued, on Wednesday, a recommendation to Bucharest residents not to drink or use tap water for cooking.
Mayor Firea said the SRI report should clear the situation. “Whoever was wrong and misinformed the population should pay. If the water operator was wrong, I will surely start the procedure to cancel their contract. If the DSP didn’t take the right samples and it turns out that the data they presented was false or half true, it’s normal that the Government takes measures against the dignitaries and public servants who misinformed the population and induced panic,” Firea said at local Romania TV news station, according to Economica.net.
The whole scandal started on Wednesday, January 30, when the Public Health Direction (DSP) received several complaints from residents in Bucharest’s districts 5 and 6 about the tap water smell and taste. In the afternoon, water supplier Apa Nova said that the massive snow melting resulted in higher ammonia pollution levels for the water in river Arges, from which part of Bucharest is supplied. Thus, the company had to use more chlorine to disinfect the water and make it safe for public use. However, Apa Nova said the chlorine levels in all relevant tests were within legal limits.
On Wednesday evening, the Health Ministry issued a statement recommending that Bucharest residents don’t use tap water for drinking, cooking or personal hygiene. The ministry said that preliminary results of tests performed by the DSP on several water samples showed chlorine level over the normal limit. It also said that the higher chlorine levels don’t pose significant risks for people’s health but recommended people not to use the water until final test results would be released.
On Thursday morning, Apa Nova issued another statement saying that its test results showed that the drinking water supplied to Bucharesters is safe for use. According to Apa Nova, the chlorine concentration in all tested samples was between 0.1 milligrams per liter and 0.4 mg per liter, below the legal limit of 0.5 mg per liter in Romania. The company also pointed out that in other countries, legal limits are much higher and that the World Health Organization says the chlorine level in drinking water can be up to 1 mg per liter.
However, the company apologized to consumers for the discomfort generated by the water smell and taste. It also mentioned that the Romanian Waters company hadn’t informed it of the higher ammonia levels on Arges river, which made it necessary to increase the quantity of chlorine used for treating the water.
Health minister Sorina Pintea held a press conference on Thursday in which she said the tests carried out by the Public Health Direction showed that the level of chlorine in the drinking water in Bucharest was indeed within legal limits but recommended the population to still be cautious until the final test results become available, according to Economica.net.
The Romanian Waters company also issued a statement saying that the ammonia levels in river Arges were indeed higher than usual in the last few days, but that they were within legal limits allowing the water to be treated for public consumption.
Apa Nova, which is part of French group Veolia, has been Bucharest’s water and sewage operator since 2000 and the current contract is valid until 2025, according to the City Hall.
(Photo source: Gabriela Firea's Facebook page)