Experts seriously doubt Kakhovka will result in health risks in Bulgarian Black Sea

Two experts – a marine ecologist and Bulgaria’s Chief State Health Inspector, an epidemiologist – say that they seriously doubt there is a risk of the flow from the destroyed Nova Kakhoka dam resulting in health risks in Bulgaria’s Black Sea waters.

Bulgarian National Radio reported Environment Minister Julian Popov as saying on June 15: “At the moment there is no danger to the Bulgarian waters. The tourist season on the Bulgarian Black Sea is not threatened.

“We are constantly monitoring the situation, we are in constant contact with the governments of Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. We are constantly sampling sea water, using satellite observations and monitoring sea currents,” Popov said.

Dr Dimitar Berov, a marine ecologist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, said that the waters that had flowed into the Gulf of Odesa and entered the northwestern shelf of the Black Sea had not yet moved south enough to cause pollution.

Thanks to forecasts of ocean and sea currents and winds, scientists will know exactly when these water masses will eventually reach Bulgarian shores, he said.

If this does happen, the concentrations of chemicals and other pollutants will be much lower than those that would create a serious health risk or have a toxic effect, Berov told Bulgarian National Radio.

“There is another element of pollution and that is the floating waste. This sometimes move faster, including because of the wind, so we can assume that we will see them first,” he said.

“This is a matter of household plastics, from agriculture , as well as other construction materials, because many facilities have been destroyed in the Dnipro River area. Possibly within a few weeks, such floating debris may reach our shore.”

Berov said that he doubted a risk of pathogens in the water reaching Bulgaria.

“I don’t know if we can even expect such pathogens in the water to reach all the way to the Bulgarian coast – after all, we are talking about a distance of more than 400 km.

“The good thing, if there is anything good at all in this situation, is that those pathogens and organic matter from the Dnipro River are broken down by marine microorganisms. There are also phytoplankton that consume the pollutants. I predict that these pathogens will remain a localised problem in the Odesa Bay area,” Berov said.

In addition to relying on the natural self-cleaning functions of marine ecosystems to detect, capture and degrade these harmful substances, it is also important that scientists and responsible institutions constantly monitor pollutants.

Berov said that it was necessary to continue the monitoring programme along the coast, as well as to follow what is happening in the open sea.

Responding to reports about inquiries from foreign tour operators regarding the quality of the water on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast; about environmental activists’ concerns that pollution could lead to excessive algal blooms and make the sea unattractive for swimming; and about beach concession-holders who are creating panic in order to request a simplification of fees, Berov said: “The most important thing is to make decisions based on scientific research and verified facts”.

Berov said that rumours and fake news are constantly circulating on the internet, so it is good for both holidaymakers and those employed in the tourism sector to get information from reliable sources – the institutions dealing with the research of the Black Sea.

Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev, an epidemiologist, told Nova Televizia on June 16: “Theoretically, it is not ruled out, but in practice I do not see how infections will reach the Black Sea after the blowing up of the dam wall of Nova Kakhovka”.

“The water in the dam is for drinking purposes, although as it passes it carries away everything that is on the surface.”

Seawater is not the best environment for micro-organisms, Kunchev said, given its salinity, composition and the sunlight.

Kunchev said that in 40 years of experience as an epidemiologist, he had not seen a person infected through sea water and recommended good personal hygiene.

The Environment Ministry said on June 16 that there was no evidence of pollution of the Bulgarian waters of the Black Sea. On June 8, Environment Minister Popov ordered enhanced monitoring.

Satellite observations and mathematical modeling of water currents so far do not give cause for concern, the Environment Ministry said.

The state of not only the coastal, but also the water currents deep into the sea were being monitored.

The monitoring of the state of the sea waters is coordinated with the Ministry of Tourism with a view to the smooth running of the tourist season, the Environment Ministry said.

Sampling frequency is sufficient to make an objective assessment of the current state of sea waters. The results will be provided to the relevant authorities in a timely manner, in accordance with the time required for the analysis of the determined indicators in the points.

Reports of possible signs of pollution along the coastline can be submitted to the Environment Ministry’s Green Phone: 0887 088440 or 02/9888205, as well as to the email address: [email protected]. The relevant teams of the Ministry of Tourism are ready to render assistance, the statement said.

(Photo, of the Centre for Integrated Management and Monitoring of the Coastal Zone at the Varna Naval Academy, via the website of the Environment Ministry)

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