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Irrigation water banned from Achna dam after waste contamination fears (updated)

achna dam
The Achna dam (Terra Cypria)

Authorities on Tuesday sought to caution the public over revelations that liquid waste is seeping into the Achna dam, amid fears of environmental consequences.

The issue came to the fore a day earlier, when Achna community leader Nikos Vassilas said the dam and surrounding cultivation had been contaminated by the liquid bursting out of an earthen holding tank.

He asked for immediate lab assessments of dam and ground water, as well as a better strategy for the management of liquid waste from the livestock (mainly cow) farms.

Responding to the news, the agriculture ministry announced it is monitoring the issue and taking appropriate measures, including a temporary ban on use of irrigation water from the dam in effect since Sunday, when it was first informed of the problem.

Speaking on CyBC’s morning programme, environment department director Theodoulos Mesimeris somewhat downplayed concerns, noting that due to the season, water from the dam is not currently in great demand.

“We will await the results of the measurements from samples of dam water, ground water and the surrounding fields, the extent of the contamination remains to be seen,” he said.

Mesimeris added that some natural filtering will have occurred during the seepage of the waste through the two-kilometre area.

It is unlikely to pose a public health risk,” Mesimeris said, adding that better management techniques are nonetheless being examined, requiring either onsite installations or a centralised system.

He noted that the problem is more likely to flare up in the winter when liquid waste does not evaporate as quickly and when its volume increases due to rains, which also destabilise the earthen holding tanks.

The agriculture ministry said the tank in question is now being closely monitored and in the event of a new failure, immediate measures to restore it will be taken.

Meanwhile, the ministry has taken stock of all adjoining agricultural parcels and crops affected and a detailed assessment is planned.

Water was also sampled from the Achna dam and analysed by the water management board to determine the levels of possible contaminants. Appropriate measures will be taken based on the results of the chemical analyses.

At the same time, the department of environment immediately implemented “polluter pays” legislation, the ministry said.

During the on-site investigation, authorities determined the spillage from a five-metre-wide tank, to be around 50,000 cubic metres. The livestock unit operator holds a valid waste disposal permit, for processing in suitable evaporation tanks.

“At first glance, it appears that an important wetland declared a Natura 2000 protected area has been seriously damaged,” Green Party leader Giorgos Perdikis said on Tuesday after visiting the site.

He noted that the Achna community council and leader had repeatedly alerted the state on the issues facing various livestock facilities located around the wetland.

“This area, apart from being declared a protected wetland, does not actually receive any sort of protection,” and the result is it has been polluted by this random incident, he said.

Perdikis said that his party will independently conduct chemical analysis to determine the pollution levels in the water and the surrounding area.

Finally he expressed the hope that this incident will trigger change across the industry through the adoption of measures that will protect the environment.

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