Kuressaare E.coli threat scared away spa customers

Spa center (photo is illustrative).
Spa center (photo is illustrative). Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

An Escherichia coli contamination in the tap water of the city of Kuressaare cost spas in the city more than a few customers. The city's water utility hopes the problem will be solved in the next few days.

Last Sunday, the ER of the Kuressaare Hospital said people in the city were coming down with diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The Health Board confirmed the cause as an E.coli contamination in the public water system by Tuesday.

Johan Lõuk, spokesperson for the Meri and Johan spa hotels in Kuressaare, said that the contaminated tap water situation has cost spas tens of thousands in missed revenue.

Tauri Sumberg, member of the board of Legend Hotels that runs the Georg Ots Spa, said that while they initially did not expect the water issue to cause problems, customers soon started canceling reservations.

He said that the spa lost half of its bookings and while it is usually 80-90 percent at capacity during weekends, it will be half that this weekend.

Other spas in Kuressaare also said the situation has affected them. Hardi Kerde, executive manager of the Grand Rose Spa, said they decided to keep doors open as the spa has internal water filters.

"We are offering our customers bottled water to drink," he added.

Tauri Sumberg said he is not happy with the local leaders' crisis communication efforts as only a small part of Kuressaare is affected, not the whole of Saaremaa. He said that someone has caused damage, which people will end up paying for instead of the local authorities.

"People and companies are struggling, goods are spoiling, people come to work, while businesses are not generating turnover. It is ridiculous that no one is taking responsibility, communicating matters. It amounts to indifference toward local people on the part of leaders we cannot see appearing in the media or calming people. It is all going on for too long," the head of Georg Ots Spa said.

Head of waterworks: The bacteria will be routed in the coming days

Ain Saaremäel, member of the board of Kuressaare Veevärk, told ERR that the company collects test samples from eight locations in the city and its near vicinity.

"The first time, half of the tests came back clean, while it was three-quarters now. E.coli still showed up in a few locations, while we are seeing reduction and have not discovered the contaminant in new places," he said.

The local water utility is concentrating its efforts in places where the bacteria has been found, helping apartment buildings flush their piping systems.

But because the entire water system is linked, areas where the tests have come back negative cannot be declared safe until the contamination persists elsewhere.

While Saaremäel could not say when the bacteria might be eradicated, he suggested it is a matter of days as concentrations have been falling since Monday.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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