Cyprus Mail

Peyia water problem only partially fixed

The problem of contaminated drinking water in an area of Coral Bay in Peyia was partly solved earlier in the week but some officials say it could resurface because the 30-year-old private supply network fed from a borehole could become susceptible again at any time.

In June, residents of some 300 units were notified by the health services that their water supply was no longer suitable to drink. They said the problem actually started in February of this year and they had been forced since to buy water at a cost of €20 to €30 per tonne.

The headache for Peyia municipality was that although the vast majority of these residents all live inside the boundaries of the municipality, only a small fraction resides within the designated local water supply network and can be connected easily. The remainder, which consists of a lot of tourist apartments and holiday homes, are still largely dependent on the borehole supply.

Residents have complained in the past over water shortages and the high cost in their area. The owner of a holiday home who lives in Nicosia, who has been in the area since the mid-90s, said during a protest earlier this month that he paid a €33 flat fee every two months but in the capital he paid less than a third of that amount. They staged the protest at the Peyia town hall on August 16 to complain about the situation.

Those who can do so easily, have already begun to switch over to the local network and most of the work is already done, according to authorities.

A municipality official who was not authorised to talk to the press in his official capacity, told the Sunday Mail that so far 65-70 of the residents who qualified had signed up to join the Peyia network.

He said the local council also took a decision to examine the possibility of connecting the people outside the network on a case-by-case basis if they applied, if the specifications were met and if they paid for the work.

A second factor that contributed to easing the problem for now was a new health certificate obtained by the developer giving his supply the all-clear.

An official from the water development department who is familiar with the situation, but who was also not authorised to speak to the media, said: “The most recent chemical and biological analysis found it’s now compliant but there is always a risk because the borehole is inside an intensive agricultural development and there is also building going on,” he said. One resident suggested during the recent protest that the well had been contaminated after villas were built in the area.

The water is checked once a week, according to the water official.

Peyia councillor Linda Leblanc remarked: “This is an issue of public safety.” She said all of the boreholes along coastal areas are now “completely contaminated”. Leblanc also said the water department had offered the developer 200,000 tonnes of water during the height of the problem but no agreement was reached at the time.

Commenting on the results of the latest health check, the water department official said: “It’s OK now but we don’t know about tomorrow.”

“The [borehole] aquifier contains a lot of fractures which allows for contamination as do such things as bad fittings and breakages. This borehole has to be abandoned for good. The microbiological pollution that was detected, no one knows where it came from. It is not a well-protected borehole and is in a dangerous condition.“

The official said the developer, according to the planning permission he received three decades ago, undertook to provide “good quality water” to his clients.  “He has to find a way to work with local authorities to fix his network. But at the same time his network has no worth,” the official said.

This was confirmed by both the municipality official and by Peyia mayor Neophytos Akoursiotis. Adding the developer’s supply network to the municipality’s system was out of the question, they said.

“We can’t add him our network as the systems are not compatible and it could cause the public network to collapse,” the official said. He said that for instance the public network has 16 bars pressure and the private network has only two bars pressure.  “I don’t think his network would fulfil the requirements of the specifications for the public network.”

In weighing up the pros and cons, he said the municipality had to think about the service it provides to its 11,000 residents. “For those living inside the water network boundary, they can be connected quickly,” he said. “For those outside but still within the municipality, they will be looked at on a case-by-case basis if they apply in writing and if all requirements are met. Adding five kilometres of pipe is not an easy thing to do and it would not be fair on the taxpayers to have to pay for this.”

The cost per dwelling for those within the network is €800 – set by legislation – despite the local authority having to install additional piping. Those outside, depending on the distance and conditions would have to pay more. The official said there were also legal aspects as the developer had contracted to provide water to his development and that was another issue adding to the complexities of the situation.

Akoursiotis said part of the problem was that the borehole was around 8km from the development.

“We spoke to the developer to find out his intentions,” the mayor said, referring to efforts to solve the problem earlier in the month.  “We tried to find a formula to help come up with a temporary solution,” he said, adding that the sides were unable to agree on how to solve the issue at the time even though extra supplies had been offered by the water development department.

The mayor also said that Peyia municipality had no interest in joining the two networks. “It’s 30 years old, it’s leaking and needs fixing,” Akoursiotis said. “Every day there is building going there and bulldozers digging”, confirming the risk of contamination laid out by the water development official.

Akoursiotis said the municipality has now requested more water from the water development department to cover the escalating needs of the area with the supply being extended to new customers.

Despite a number of attempts, the developer could not be reached for comment.


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