Regional health inspectorate: No dangerous pollution on Bulgaria’s southern coast

Tests of sea water samples taken from 30 places along Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast have found no dangerous pollution and there is no risk for beachgoers, according to the regional health inspectorate in Bourgas.

However, the dispute between Bulgaria’s health authorities and the Association of Active Consumers Bulgaria is continuing, with the association saying that its testing established that E.coli. levels at Popski beach near Tsarevo exceed the permissible limit by 15 times and recommending that people not bathe there.

Earlier in August, the association claimed that its testing showed hazardous levels of pollution in places on the southern Black Sea coast, a claim to which the Health Ministry responded with a lengthy and detailed rebuttal, calling into question the methodology used by the association and the credibility of the testing done at a laboratory at Sofia University, which it said was not accredited to conduct such testing.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute, this week the regional health inspectorate and the association conducted testing together.

It is not clear why the results of the two groups were reported separately, studied in different laboratories, despite the intention to do so in one.

According to the regional health inspectorate’s testing, which the Health Ministry has emphasised follows both Bulgarian and EU standards, of the two problematic beaches, Popski and Lozenets beach, neither violated the limits for good water quality.

Bulgarian National Radio quoted Dr Mariana Kofinova of the Bourgas regional health inspectorate as saying: “I don’t see any danger for beachgoers”.

BNR reported Tsarevo mayor Georgi Lapchev complaining about the impact of the previous claims by the active consumers association.

“The moment this news was announced, there was first a hysteria of buying probiotics on the southern Black Sea coast. Second, nearly 50 per cent of people really left,” Lapchev said.

“And no matter how much we try to minimise this damage, there is damage too, the damage of an extremely false and gross interference in the national security of the state,” he said.

The Association of Active Consumers, in a post on its website on August 31, said that its testing at the central beach in Lozenets had found E. coli levels below the limit and “in spite of the presence of slight contamination, the water is suitable for bathing”.

The regional health inspectorate said that ased on the monitoring of the bathing areas during the 2023 season in the southern Black Sea coast, no result requiring the introduction of prohibitions and restrictions was established.

The state health control authorities, in addition to the presence of Escherichia coli and Enterococci, also conduct tests for Salmonella and Non-agglutinating Vibrio cholerae, and so far no presence has been established for these two indicators, the health inspectorate said.

Dr Sergey Ivanov, who conducted the monitoring on behalf of the association, told Nova Televizia on August 31 that the sea water samples taken by the regional health inspectorate tested negative for Escherichia coli because, contrary to the method prescribed by the EU Bathing Water Directorate, they were taken from the surf, whereas the samples collected for the association were taken from a depth of a metre.

Chief State Health Inspector Dr Angel Kunchev, speaking to Nova Televizia on August 30, described the association’s initiative as a “circus” and their findings as not to be taken seriously.

All the results of the testing showed the waters meeting the “excellent” criteria, “not even ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’,” Kunchev said, reiterating that there was no justification for restrictive measures.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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