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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

96% of Fabulous G-8 Piter's Beaches are Toxic

Yesterday we learned that Russians seeking to bathe at home don't have much to hope for. Today we find out that if they seek to solve the problem in the natural world, they're not likely to fare any better. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Only one out of twenty-five officially registered beaches in and around St. Petersburg is safe for use, according to this week’s report from Rospotrebnadzor, a state consumer surveillance organization with hygienic supervision functions.

Twenty-four beaches checked by the center’s specialists were found to be contaminated. Water showed dangerous levels of toxins, contaminants or bacteria, and thus the beaches can only be used for sunbathing. Only a beach on the island of Kronshtadt has passed all tests and proved reliable and safe.

The long blacklist of places unsuitable for swimming includes the popular beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress that hosted the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour competition last week.

Swimmers were also advised to avoid two beaches at Primorsky Park Pobedy, the Bezymyannoye Lake beach in the Krasnoselsky District, Zolotoi beach in Zelenogorsk, Laskovy beach in Solnechnoye, Chudny beach in Repino, two beaches on the Izhora River in the Kolpino District, the beaches at Lisy Nos and the Belaya Gora and the Zelenaya Gora beaches in Sestroretsk.

“If people swim in the polluted waters, the very least they can expect is a severe stomach infection,” said Nikolai Borovkov, an expert with the center’s Environmental Hygiene Department.

Borovkov said that the local water was tested for bacteria, including germs that cause dysentery, salmonella and even cholera, although experts believe the latter is unlikely to be found in the Neva River.

The center’s specialists take sand samples from all the city’s beaches once a month. They also take water samples to test for chemical contaminants such as heavy metals and sample water once a week for dangerous bacteria. On June 16, beaches were declared safe for swimmers but microbiological contamination has increased following several weeks of high temperatures, experts say.

The water pollution is also caused by pumping untreated industrial waste and human waste into the Neva River, where the water is always far from clean.

With the completion of the new Southwest Water-Treatment Plant in 2005, the local water-and-sewage monopolist Vodokanal is able to filter out 85 percent of the waste, but much more money is needed to solve the problem completely.

There is also the problem of illegally pumped industrial waste. Dmitry Artamonov, head of the local Greenpeace office, said that many city residents are either unconcerned about the problem or unaware of the state of the water.

Illegally pumped water may contain anything from dyes and oils to various chemicals, Artamonov said, warning that polluted water may often appear clean, as much of the illegal waste disposal takes place at night.

“The Neva is fast-flowing, so if you throw something into it at night it will be far away by morning,” he said. “Even if the water looks clean, with no obvious oily patches, don’t trust your eyes — they just don’t give you the whole picture.”

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