Encouraged by Armenia's most powerful political
party, thousands of Yerevan residents are expected
to sue the Yerevan Water and Sewage JSC, charging
that the water company's negligence led to the
breakdown of water lines on October 25.
The breakdown affected the routine of approximately
200,000 residents of Arabkir and Central district,
where the contaminated water triggered an epidemic
of dysentery and sent 260 people to hospital.
The citizens accuse both the water company and
the authorities that they did not stop the circulation
of the contaminated water into residents' homes.
Instead officials appeared on TV the next day
urging residents to boil water before drinking.
"We spent a lot of money these days buying
bottled water, using electricity and gas to boil
the piped water and buying medicines. Who will
compensate our expenses?" questioned Arabkir
resident Karine Meliksetyan.
The Armenian Dashnaktsutyun (Dashnaks) Party has
initiated a special group of lawyers who assist
citizens in preparing their suits. Meliksetyan
is one of some 600 residents who have already
applied to the Dashnaktsutyn representation of
"We will estimate how much people spend
on electricity and bottled water. We are going
to take into court the residents' suits and demand
both the compensation for financial expenses and
moral damage," says lawyer Georgi Martirosyan.
Meanwhile officials continue offering vague explanations
of who is charged for the water accident and say
the problem is old pipes and a lack of money to
repair them. Officials say that the water system
in Armenia is worn out and in some districts the
pipes and canals were not renovated for several
Albert Hambartsumyan, head of the Communal Department
of the Arabkir Municipality told ArmeniaNow that
the main problem in the water system is that the
drinking water and sewage lines go parallel and
intersect in several points, which he says is
"If the pipes are not safe, only 24-hour
water supply will help to reduce the risks of
water pipeline breakdowns," Ambartsumyan
He explained: "When the pump does not operate,
the water flows by its way in the pipe without
pressure. It means if there is a hole in a pipe
it absorbs whatever it is surrounded by, be it
rain or sewage water. If there is a pressure in
the pipe it pushes the water and makes it to flush
and thus the pressure corks up the pores and prevents
possibility of water contamination from the outside."
But the pumps in Armenia are not adapted for
round-the-clock supply. Usually residents have
pumped water four hours a day and each district
has its pump system. The total length of water
pipe is about one thousand kilometers. The drinking
water is being accumulated from several springs
throughout Armenia into nine water collectors
from where water goes through lines to the residents'
Arzni, north of Yerevan, where the breakdown
took place is one such collector. Officials say
that the breakdown was caused by heavy rains and
several lines of Arzni collector were damaged
and mixed with sewage.
"Citizens complained that the water during
the recent days was hyper chlorinated. But it
is how we managed to prevent the spread of the
infection," says Artavazd Vanyan, the head
of the Yerevan Epidemic Station.
"Usually in Armenia water contains 0.3-0.4
percent of chlorine. After the accident it did
not exceed 0.7 percent, the permissible standards
of the World Health Organization," Vanyan
The specialists do not exclude the possibility
of cases of typhoid and hepatitis, the incubation
period of which last from 20-50 days
"There is a tiny probability that these
diseases might appear, however no one can guarantee
that it will not happen" says Ruslana Gevorkyan,
Deputy Minister of Health.
"We managed to prevent the spread of dysentery
and the water pipes were cleaned by chorine. Two
hundred people have already been discharged from
the hospital and I hope that there will be no
more cases of infection," she says.
The first water pipes were constructed in Armenia
as long ago as 1911. For many decades water in
Armenia was being qualified as a national value.
Armenians were proud of their water and were ready
to argue with any foreigner who would say that
it is not safe to drink the piped water.
Now people say they will not risk their health
and health of their children by using the piped
water and do not believe that the water will be
pure and tasty as it was before.
So far no official has guaranteed that more breakdowns
will not take place, saying instead that huge
investments are needed to renovate the water system.
ArmeniaNow, together with the Armenian Consumer
Union initiated an independent water examination
to reveal if water serving central Yerevan contains
any dangerous mixtures. Members of the Union took
a sample of water from Arabkir and Center districts
of Yerevan to the independent Laboratory of the
National Institute of Health.
The results show that both samples correspond
to all accepted levels of smell, color, taste,
purity and chlorine.