Despite the smell of sewage from the sea, authorities say that sanitary standards are in order
Sewage discharge into the sea in Abkhazia has made the start of the tourist season in the area a rather difficult one.
Back in April, the pump of the station responsible for directing sewage to treatment plants burnt out, and city officials say that it will be repaired no earlier than September.
A temporary solution to the problem has been to redirect the sewage into the sea, however through pipes that drain the sewage some 150 meters from the shore.
Head of the Sukhum city administration, Adgur Kharazia, said that the sewage “self-cleans through the exchange of water.”
However, locals and tourists say that over the past two weeks there has been a noticeable smell of sewage on the Sukhum embankment.
RFE/RL asked Sukhum residents about the situation on the ground.
“We heard that the pump had burnt out, and that the water was very dirty and all the waste is going into the sea. Therefore, we are wary of this situation. But no infections have been observed…”.
“The quality of the sea water is difficult to assess … Sometimes you do see something floating in the water. The beaches must be cleaned. Sometimes somebody rents a part of the beach, cleans up the water in the area but everything else just looks abandoned.”
“We will be wary, but I don’t think that it’s an environmental disaster. At least that’s what I want to believe.”
“Sometimes you come to the sea and you smell something [foul]. So I do think that we have some environmental problems [here].”
Sukhum waste management facilities are located some 13 kilometers from the city, however they were decimated by the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in the early 1990s. It was only in 2016 that the sewage treatment facility started working again, Abkhaz-inform writes.
Up until 2016, city waste was dumped into the sea at a depth of more than 100 meters.
In the summer of 2016, a new complex of wastewater treatment plants was built with Russian funding, which daily received up to 30 thousand cubic meters of wastewater.
City authorities say the situation is not dangerous.
“[It is accepted elsewhere in the world] that when you have such an emergency, you can release the sewage deep into the sea. The sea is an environment where everything is recycled and cleaned”, says the head of the city administration Adgur Kharazia.
Sukhum’s chief medical officer Alla Belyaeva also stated that “the situation has not yet reached a critical level.” Although there is a risk for the summer season, therefore, sea water samples are being taken regularly.
“The sea water is still cool, and so microorganisms do not multiply so rapidly … But as the sea warms, the risk of catching an intestinal infection will increase. Should the biological indicators deteriorate, other decisions will be made. The closure of beaches is also possible”, Belyaeva told Abkhaz-Inform.