New study cannot explain bacteria in Kuressaare drinking water

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

Studies ordered for internal use by water company Kuressaare Veevärk explaining the cause of the city's polluted drinking water did not clarify the situation or how bacteria entered the pipes. A new investigation will now be commissioned.

It was assumed the water became contaminated while a sewerage pipe was being repaired, but the analysis did not confirm this.

"Yes, it doesn't give a single answer, and since the expert was commissioned to clarify the causes of this particular accident and whether this water incident caused the contamination of drinking water, the answer is that the expert today does not confirm that this was the cause." said the company's board member Ain Saaremäel.

He said it is still unclear where the pollution came from.

Board member Aivar Sõrm said: "Theoretically, according to the expert, at the first moment of the accident, the pollutant could have entered a hole, and probably did, but because of the pressure from all sides, it was instantaneously ejected from the same hole again."

The analysis did confirm that the outbreak of sickness that saw several people hospitalized in May started after the incident.

"Yes, that's true, and it's one of the reasons why we're not quite letting go of that version. If the accident site was not the contamination site, then the contamination site had to be somewhere very, very close, next door. It couldn't have come from the other end of town," said Sõrm.

Saaremaa Municipality will now order a new investigation.

"The result of the expert's report is certainly a surprise for the municipality, as we hoped that the report would provide an exhaustive result on what caused the water crisis. A broader, or more in-depth, expertise could be carried out by one of the research institutes or universities operating in Estonia. We are sure that they have the expertise to prepare such an expert report," said Liis Lepik, deputy mayor of Saaremaa.

Kuressaare Veevärk estimated the damage caused by the contamination totals more than €500,000. The results presented on Wednesday do not allow the company to pin the blame on the company that replaced the pipeline.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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