- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 November 7 , 2003 

Water Worries: Portions of Yerevan still taking extreme measures resulting from broken pipes

The Harutyunyan family wonders why authorities didn't stop the circulation of contaminated water immediately after the breakdown.

The Armenian Prosecutors' office has launched an investigation to learn why Yerevan's water supply was contaminated by sewage last week, causing outbreak of stomach ailments and sending some residents to hospital.

The contaminated water caused an epidemic of dysentery. Some 200 people were admitted to Nork's Hospital for Infectious Diseases.

Doctors at Nork say the incident of illness has tapered off, however they continue to get new cases related to the water problem. Fifty four of the original cases have been discharged.

"The condition of those who are still in the hospital is stable. Medicine can easily cope with dysentery and it is not a dangerous disease if treatment is applied in time," says Eduard Zardaryan, head of the resuscitation department of the hospital.

Zardaryan says that the hospital has taken effective measures to control and treat the outbreak of dysentery. Some feared that the contamination could lead to more serious ailments such as typhoid and hepatitis. So far, however, no cases of those diseases have been reported.

Public anger over the authorities' handling of water problems has intensified, while the Government appears powerless to stop the circulation of the contaminated water into residents' apartments. Water in the affected districts is heavily chlorinated and each day officials are holding press conferences to update progress on fixing the problem, but so far it isn't clear whether the pipes have been repaired.

Officials at the Ministry of Health say the contamination has been stopped.

"The source of infection of drinking water has been found. Since last week the quality of water meets sanitary standards," says Vano Vardanyan, Vice Mayor of Yerevan.

Officials are still, however, urging residents of the affected districts to boil water before drinking and not to use water from their pipes for washing or preparing food. Further, residents wonder why their drinking water is now heavily chlorinated if it is suitable to use.

Presidential spokesman Ashot Kocharyan told ArmeniaNow that President Robert Kocharyan has instructed prosecutors to conduct a detailed investigation of the breakdown and, if necessary, bring criminal proceedings against those responsible for it.

The Chairman of the State Water Committee Gagik Martirosyan told journalists that those people who suffered using contaminated water have the right to request compensation from whatever source proves to be responsible for the leak.

Six-year-old Kaits appeared in hospital Wednesday with abdominal pains.

So far, authorities are not saying who is to blame, saying only that a sewage drain was clogged by rubbish and that recent heavy rains aggravated the poor condition of deteriorated pipes.

Skeptical Yerevan residents are claiming that the sewage line break was no accident at all, but was deliberately caused by businessmen who own bottled water and juice production companies.

"I wonder why authorities behave so indifferent to the problem," says Ruzanna Harutyunyan, who took her five year old daughter, Ani, to hospital Wednesday with stomach problems. "Why didn't they stop the circulation of sewage water immediately to not make people suffer."

Agavni Soghoyan, the mother of another affected child, six year old Kaitz, says she intends to write letters to the President, to the Water Supply and Sewage Company to demand explanations.

"I am very pleased with the doctor's attitude in this hospital, and we got all necessary treatment. But who should be responsible that we appear here," she says. "Now when the rest of the children enjoy the school holiday my son is suffering and got intravenous injections all the day long."

While doctors assure that boiled water contains no danger for health, many residents of Yerevan are suspicious of their water delivery system.

Meanwhile, sales of bottled waters have soared and so has the price. According to one shopkeeper a five-liter bottle of "Noy" that sold for 500 drams (about 90 cents) before the contamination, now sells for 800 drams (about $1.40).



According to Agnes
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Holy Land

The blessing of the territory for a new church in Masis took place this week. It will be the first dominical temple in this town (for years it has been populated by Azerbaijanis) and the second biggest after the St. Grigor Lusavorich in Yerevan. The construction is estimated at $1 million and is sponsored by "Vardanyan Family" foundation.



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