Pernik water crisis: Bulgarian prosecutors charge two more people
Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said on January 27 that it pressed charges of mismanagement against two officials in the ongoing investigation into the events that resulted in the ongoing water shortage in the town of Pernik.
The prosecution statement did not identify the officials, using instead their job titles – these were former head of Pernik’s water utility Ivan Vitanov and the former caretaker mayor of Pernik, Sevdelina Kovacheva, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio reported.
Kovacheva is accused of failing to carry out her duties, which would have required her to introduce water rationing after being informed that water levels the Studena reservoir were low. The statement did not specify when exactly the water rationing proposal was put to Kovacheva.
Vitanov is accused of entering into unfavourable contracts and exercising insufficient oversight of maintenance and repair operations. The prosecutors alleged that Vitanov’s mismanagement was intentional and caused damages worth 11.7 million leva.
Prosecutors also said that the evidence collected so far indicated that the mismanagement by the two officials would not have caused – on their own, without the alleged mismanagement by Environment Minister Neno Dimov, arrested earlier this month – significant damages that would have resulted in the current water shortage in Pernik.
Both Vitanov and Kovacheva were detained for 72 hours, the prosecutor’s office said.
Meanwhile, police detained two participants in a protest outside Bulgaria’s Regional Development Ministry, organised by a minor political party, against the government’s handling of the crisis.
The protesters attempted to break through the police line to enter the ministry’s building, prompting law enforcement to use pepper spray, Bulgarian National Television reported. Thirty people required medical treatment, the report said.
Also on January 27, a joint sitting of three committees of Sofia Municipal Council was discussing the proposal to divert part of the capital city’s water supply, 300 liters/second, towards Pernik. The full municipal council was due to discuss and vote on the proposal on January 28.
Sofiyska Voda, the city’s water utility, said that it could divert that amount to Pernik without any risk to Sofia’s own water supply. The assurances were given during a visit by Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova to the company’s control centre on January 27, Bulgarian National Radio reported.