Feces in the Sea: Up to 41 times above the norm is the Pollution on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast

Business » TOURISM | August 17, 2023, Thursday // 18:06
Bulgaria: Feces in the Sea: Up to 41 times above the norm is the Pollution on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast Popski beach in Tsarevo, Bulgaria

Pollution of the sea water up to 41 times above the norm found a joint inspection of scientists from Sofia University and the Association "Active Users" on the beaches along the Southern Black Sea coast.

Its results and analysis were published today.

They were carried out according to a European project. The head of the group "Microbiological risks in the environment" of the project is Dr. Sergey Ivanov.

11 beaches have been checked. The water was tested for the amount of Escherichia coli bacteria found in feces. It is a universal indicator of bathing water pollution. It should not be detected in 100 ml of drinking water. For bathing waters, the criteria are much more liberal. The limit for seawater is 500 cells (also called cfu) per 100 ml. Seawater purity is excellent at up to 250 per/100ml.

The methodology for determining Escherichia coli is standardized worldwide.

The Southern Black Sea Coast of the country

The waters of only 4 beaches out of 11 met the quantitative criterion for Escherichia coli content.

The cleanest - with 240 cells/100 ml - is on Harmanite beach in Sozopol.

The beaches in Sveti Vlas, Pomorie and the "Zlatna Ribka" campsite near Sozopol also qualify for the limit of up to 500 cells.

The northern beach of the town of Tsarevo, called Popski, is very polluted. There, Escherichia coli values reached a phenomenal 20,666 cells/100 ml, more than 41 times the norm.

Puzzled, the scientists surveyed the area. It turns out that feces are freely poured into the sea. They see "a highly polluted stream flowing into the bay, the presence of unidentified pipes/sewers towards the coast and a strong smell of feces in the area".

100-200 meters from the dirty beach there is an unfinished and abandoned hotel complex, as well as piles of garbage.

"Everything we established does not appear in the file on the beach published on the RZI-Burgas website - write the authors of the study. "There is a suspicion that the located several kilometer city treatment plant does not cope with the increased volume of wastewater, and/or discharges too close to the bay of Popski Beach."

In second place in the shameful ranking is the southern beach of Primorsko, at the mouth of the Dyavolska River. Its result was 11333 cells/100 ml, or 22 times the limit.

"A signal about the problems at this location was raised by local residents who observed a massive inflow of fecal water into the river from the surrounding hotel complexes, a fact also missed by RZI-Burgas. Apparently, the bacteria seeps along with the fresh water in the coastal area," the analysis warns.

The most visited beaches - according to the authors - are Atliman in Kiten and Lozenets. The bacteria values of both exceed the limits by 2 and 4 times, respectively.

They note this fact to emphasize that the number of tourists on the beach is not the main criterion for pollution.

In the waters of the overcrowded Atliman, 20 times less Escherichia coli were found than in the deserted Popski beach.

The example illustrates that probably the main source of coastal water pollution is illegal and unregistered sewage discharges.

Due to uneven development and the extent of sewage, the quality of the bathing waters is not the same on the different beaches. In accordance with the coastal infrastructure, the degree of fecal pollution in the seawater also changes. Each location or bay has a distinctive signature.

"Obviously the cleanliness of bathing water depends on local authority policy and where sewage treatment is neglected, this immediately affects the quality of urban beaches."

The Kakhovka Factor

After the explosion of the wall of the Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine and the subsequent flooding, along with the water in the Black Sea, many polluted material and munitions were carried away from the flooded territories. Fishing was banned and beaches were closed in Odesa Oblast of Ukraine, and some of the restrictions have not yet been lifted. With the chemicals, many pathogens also got into the sea. Ukrainian health authorities registered dysentery, cholera and other infectious agents. There were many fears in Bulgaria, fueled by malicious Russian propaganda, that some of the poisons might sail south to Bulgaria's beaches and ruin the tourist season. Fortunately, the hydrology of the sea and the great distance are a barrier and so far there are no proven toxic "emigrants" from Ukraine. The present study also found no indication of transboundary microorganisms.

"No 'Kakhovka' bacteria can affect our coast. Unfortunately, all the unwanted microorganisms found on our beaches are of original native origin!" - write the authors.

Recommendations for tourists

The waters of 7 out of a total of 11 investigated beaches on the Southern Black Sea coast do not meet the criteria for cleanliness, and at two locations, Popski Beach and Primorsko South, the pollution is extreme. RZI-Burgas, however, registered 49 main beaches along the Southern Black Sea coast, so the authors of the study warn that there may be other beaches with poor-quality water for bathing.

To protect tourists, the scientific team explains:

- contact with the bacterium Escherichia coli does not automatically lead to illness, but its presence in excessive amounts means the possible presence of other, more dangerous human pathogens. In short, where there is more Escherichia coli, you can get an infectious disease;

- the typical symptoms of contaminated water are eating disorders, "summer flu" type colds with vomiting and fever, local infections, especially of open wounds and mucous membranes, conjunctivitis, etc. In case of such symptoms, consult a doctor, and tell them which beach you were on;

- avoid bathing in sea waters for which you have prior information about the presence of pollution;

- make it a habit to take a shower after swimming in the sea. If not on the beach, go back to the hotel/apartment where you are staying;

- maintaining good personal hygiene is a prerequisite for a problem-free holiday. Remember that litter on the beach and water comes back to you. Carrying and taking food on the beach is a prerequisite for contamination from dirty hands and infected sand, and the waste is what you will lie on or bathe in the next day;

- signal to the health inspection areas when you see garbage thrown into the sea, or find, for example, a pipe with an outlet into the water.

To the institutions

The results of the microbiological quality of the bathing water found in this study are fundamentally different from those reported by RZI-Burgas for the same locations, note the scientists and "Active users" and advise the Ministry of Health to immediately conduct a public and independent inspection at the Regional Health Inspectorate in Burgas.

"Immediately close the Popski Beach in the town of Tsarevo, because the content of indicator microorganisms indicates severe pollution. Look for and remove the sources of wastewater in the area. To a large extent, this recommendation also applies to the Dyavolska River in Primorsko" - warn the authors of the study.

"It is obvious to us that there are many unregistered wastewater discharges along the Black Sea. This illegal practice is a threat to people's health and, in a broader sense, a risk to the development of tourism in Bulgaria. Nobody wants to bathe in dirty waters. The local authorities must realize that the work not done by them directly reflects in the economic development of the region. DNSK and the health authorities must help to open and close the canals and sewage pipes. Without this, there will be no clean beaches."

"The infrastructure of our beaches is in critical condition. Garbage bins are largely absent, and the municipalities have apparently forgotten about showers with fresh water. This leads to pollution of the beaches and sea water and to the deterioration of the personal hygiene of the tourists. Our business wants to do tourism in the 21st century, but apparently the standard benefits of the 20th century have been forgotten", the authors said.

They also advise introducing mandatory requirements for good hygiene practices on beaches. It must be indicated whether it is allowed to bring animals, eat food on the sand, pitch tents, etc.

"Tourism cannot be simply dumping a majority of people on the beach, because without observing hygiene rules, the place can become a source of infections that will ruin people's vacations, but also the business of irresponsible operators and municipalities."

The research

11 of the registered 49 beaches along the Southern Black Sea coast are included.

The selection of beaches is based on a risk assessment, i.e. polluted beaches are sought after.

Seawater samples were collected in the period July 31 - August 2, which is the peak of summer tourism. This suggests the heaviest pollution in this time period. Therefore, it is possible that at the beginning or end of the season, the results of the testing will be different.

The quantitative criteria for the quality of seawater for bathing in Regulation 5/2008 are subject to discussion, note in the analysis and explain that they were developed for typical seawater in Europe, which normally have a higher salinity than that of the Black Sea by about 2 times. Because Escherichia coli and other fecal pollution indicators are suppressed by water salinity, these bacteria are less inhibited in the Black Sea. It is possible to consider a change in the quantitative criterion in the direction of the norms for fresh water, which is up to 900 per/100 ml. However, this will not officially "save" heavily polluted beaches, the authors conclude.

The research was financed by European Union-NextGenerationEU, through the National Plan for Recovery and Sustainability of the Republic of Bulgaria, project Num. BG-RRP-2.004-0008.

Test methodology

The sampling was carried out according to the requirements of Ordinance 5 of 2008. The sea water was taken at a minimum of 10 meters from the coastline, at a depth of 1 meter. Sterile disposable containers, opened 30 cm below the water surface, were used. A sediment/bottom sample was collected in parallel with them. Water samples are analyzed the same day for sanitary microbiology. The corresponding amounts of water and sediment have been processed for long-term storage and frozen in a freezer - they are for subsequent microscopic and molecular genetic studies.

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