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Kuressaare's drinking water now being treated with UV light

Tap water (photo is illustrative).
Tap water (photo is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Tap water supplied to the public in Kuressaare, capital of Estonia's largest island, Saaremaa, is now being treated by Ultraviolet (UV) light. The water had been chlorinating the water since an outbreak of E.Coli bacteria in spring this year.

The local water company, Kuressaare Veevärk, had been adding chlorine to Kuressaare's tap water following the E.Coli outbreak first detected in May.

This was only a stop-gap measure, given the unpleasant odor and taste of water so treated, and it ended Friday, to be replaced by the UV light method.

Kuressaare Veevärk declared the town of 13,000 inhabitants' drinking water clean several weeks ago, but the UV light is being utilized to ensure this remains the case.

Kuressaare Veevärk only supplies the Kuressaare area; other suppliers cover the rest of Saaremaa, where many residents of the 2,683-square-kilometer island also get their water from pumped wells.

Ain Saaremäel, Kuressaare Veevärk board member, said: "UV light kills, so to speak, any bacteria that may be in the water. We have been using similar lamps, albeit smaller ones, at several smaller water plants for decades,. and they work effectively."

The 3KW UV light was thus switched on at the Unimäe water treatment plant, which supplies Kuressaare, just as the chlorine drip feed was switched off.

The causes of the spring outbreak, which led to significant numbers of people presenting at hospital, is still unknown; Saaremaa Rural Municipality failed to find a bidder for an investigation tender, but is organizing a tender afresh.

The results of this are likely to take more than six months, Liis Lepik, deputy mayor of Saaremaa, said, adding that a service provider should be found within the next month.

Issues with E.Coli and E.Coli-like contamination started to be reported in Kuressaare in May, with several outbreaks being detected after that. Some residents had to be hospitalized after the contamination, while local government provided fresh drinking water in the early part of the crisis. Residents were also advised to boil tap water prior to drinking.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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