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Kuressaare tap water remained unfit to drink Wednesday

Efforts to replace the water in the system in Kuressaare.
Efforts to replace the water in the system in Kuressaare. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

The public water supply in Kuressaare, capital of Saaremaa, remained unfit for drinking Wednesday, the Health Board (Terviseamet) said, following the identification of Escheria coli outbreak.

The company responsible for providing the town's water, Kuressaare Veevärk AS, is continuing with cleaning and also chlorinating the water, following the outbreak which was identified earlier this week.

This process includes draining existing water from the mains (see picture), and replacing it with uncontaminated water.

Firms involved in producing or preparing food and beverages are also not able to use mains water at present.

At the same time, new supplies of bottled water have arrived after a run on products was experienced earlier in the week.

Saaremaa Assistant Rural Municipality Mayor Liis Lepik told ERR that "Educational institutions – schools and kindergartens - are being supplied with bottled water by the municipality."

ER callouts are diminishing also, Lepik added .

Meanwhile, Kärt Sõber, head of the Health Board's infectious diseases department said that gastro-intestinal infections in Kuressaare had been present due to consuming the contaminated water, while there was also a risk of the infection spreading through family contacts.

This made hygiene including hand washing after using the bathroom and before preparing food, keeping separate cutlery, towels etc. for people struck by an infection, and staying away from work if unwell, Sõber said.

Authorities announced at the start of the week that tap water in Kuressaare was not fit to drink or use in food preparation.

Tap water can be used, but should be boiled for a minimum of 10 minutes beforehand, the board says.

The Health Board adds that Kuressaare Veevärk AS is to continue with the cleaning up work in the town until repeat sample readings reveal that the incidence of E.Coli is zero.

Kuressaare authorities have not yet identified who is culpable in regard to the contamination, Lepik said, adding that this will be done via an investigation once the water quality is acceptable again, while Kuressaare Veevärk AS will be required to cooperate with the Health Board, and has pledged to do so.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

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