Wednesday, 23 September

The situation with Dniproazot, urges the country to completely abandon the use of its products for water disinfection.

The situation with chlorine, which is necessary for the disinfection of drinking water, has been resolved for this time. The price of such a reconcilement for water utilities is a reagent, a ton of which previously cost 10,400 UAH, and now – 33,000 with no VAT.

However, given that the stalemate with the production of liquefied chlorine in Ukraine is not the first. Something similar was already in 2015. Then, where is the guarantee that people will not again become hostages to someone’s showdowns?

Now the owners of the company did not like the price of gas, which, by the way, has nothing to do with the production of chlorine, then suddenly something else will appear. To ensure the safety of Ukrainians from such problems, as experts say, it is necessary to move more actively to alternative sources of drinking water purification despite its high cost.

While the population of large cities is guessing when and where they stop supplying water, Kharkiv was the first to prepare for the worst (the disinfectant stocks were there until July 24), almost simultaneously there were two things: the Security Service of Ukraine began to check the actions of officials of Dniproazot, which led to a deficit of chlorine in the country, and the enterprise stated that they are restoring its production.

Precursors of nationalization?

Some experts did not exclude the forceful development of events: they say that if they allow themselves to make 60% of the population of the country kneel, they could remain without a centralized supply of drinking water in the heatwave (and this would primarily threaten intestinal infections). Why does the President hesitate with putting in the order? It was about the mobile unit, which will go to the company “to help” to continue its work. The more moderate experts said that such actions, when we have a war in the East, on the one hand, will allow Russia to call Ukraine at least an unreliable partner, and on the other – this is not the best way to affect the investment climate, which cannot be allowed.

“In a civilized country, firstly, they would never allow such a monopoly situation, when one private group can keep the entire population intense, dictating its demands to the Government,” Oleksandr Serhienko, the lawyer, Director of the Research and Analytical Center “City Institute”, explains to Opinion. “You see, they have some demands: we will not give you the chlorine until you reduce the price of gas to us. This cannot be done, although experts have said many times that in our country the cost of gas is too high and everything that happens with the price of gas is a speculation. As it turned out now, it’s too expensive for the industry. It’s already unprofitable to produce nitrogen fertilizers because of this price. That is, it is necessary to do something with the position of Kolomoyskyi because such actions are inadmissible, but something also should be done with the price of gas”.

According to the political scientist Oleksandr Paliy, Dniproazot’s position is, in fact, an attempt by Ihor Kolomoyskyi to provoke political instability in the country, so he believes that our special services and state bodies should take the whole situation under special control. The political scientist is convinced that “our state bodies should work on the issue of monopoly, and where it concerns the life and health of people (and water is just such the case) – special services should work. And as soon as such things arise as with Dniproazot, nationalization of such enterprises should automatically take place”. Now the SSU, as reported in the press service of the agency, checks also the validity of raising several times the price of liquid chlorine on the way from producer to consumer (and it is projected to increase to 40-45 thousand UAH). According to the results of inspections, a decision will be made on the qualification of the actions of people, involved in the artificial creation of preconditions for the emergency situation, under the Criminal Code.

It is impossible to make a large supply of chlorine…

However, until they finally find out who is guilty of anything, people are primarily interested in what will actually be done to put a reliable barrier to similar situations. “The enterprises of our industry are accustomed to various cataclysms, first of all economic, there is always something missing, the economic tariffs are unreasonable,” Oleksandr Shkin, the director of the Association of Water channels “Ukrvodokanalekologiya”, comments on the situation. “It is very difficult to ensure the quality of water under such conditions. And when such technical problems, which have a political background, added to this – it is getting worse. In fact, chlorine around the world is the basis for water disinfection, it is also needed in the application of other technologies, for example, for the production of sodium hypochlorite, which is commonly called “bleach”. Dniproazot, on the one hand, is the only producer of liquefied chlorine in Ukraine, but on the other hand, gas has nothing to do with it”.

To get chlorine, you need common salt, electricity and a compressor plant, with which it is liquefied then from the gaseous state, explained the expert. In large quantities, four Ukrainian cities consume this reagent: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kryvy Rig. For example, Kyiv (given that it is partially switching to alternative technologies for disinfection of drinking water) needs 1000 tons of chlorine per year, and Kharkiv – 800 tons of chlorine. The plant produced 1500 tons a month, 800 tons of which are used for disinfection of water and preparation of sodium hypochlorite. “These are very large volumes,” Oleksandr Shkin noted, “and at this stage, our enterprises are not ready for a full replacement. Although at the acutest moment, we had to look for options for acquiring liquid chlorine abroad, in fact, it is a very complicated procedure. When we started studying the possibilities of supply diversification, it turned out that it is very difficult to do, because practically since 2014, nobody has been dealing with this issue”.

The trouble is that we cannot take advantage of European markets to the full extent, not because they do not have chlorine, but for purely technical reasons: today there is no necessary packaging for its transportation. In Ukraine, apart from Dniproazot, there are no more tanks anywhere, and European tanks can only reach the border – further chlorine will not be able to be transported through different track widths. In addition, chlorine is a product of the first class of danger, so to transport it (after all the necessary procedures that accompany its purchase), you also need to get a bunch of licensing documents, which takes extra time.

“You should also understand that you will not make a large supply of chlorine: there are simply no such storage tanks,” Shkin continues. “If we talk about alternative chemical substances, which also can disinfect water, and this is sodium hypochlorite and chlorine dioxide, then, their production requires special equipment. By the way, you cannot get too much bleach either, because within a month, it loses a third of its capacity. To get the right amount of plants for the production of these substances, the water channels do not have the necessary amount of funds. But we still told the business that is engaged in their supply to Ukraine that we will gradually move. Because we will not get into this situation, like this summer, anymore”.

Artesian water will not save the situation

Three years ago, on Obolon in Kyiv, began an experimental project to clean water without chlorine. Oleksandr Serhienko recalls that this experiment is not only successfully continuing now, but the city is expanding its scale. There is a certain experience in Kalush, so situations like those that were provoked by Dniproazot are not terrible for it. And although they do not have powerful compressors for liquefaction they can save themselves from the lack of liquid disinfectant.

Sodium hypochlorite is produced in Ivano-Frankivsk and Kolomyia, completely covering its own needs. In Lviv, the production of this reagent covers the need for disinfection of water by 40%, in Zhytomyr – by 50%. In general, in the Association of Water channels says, there are up to 20% of water supply enterprises in Ukraine that have their own facilities for manufacturing alternative reagents. To re-equip the Dnipro station for the production of hypochlorite in Kyiv is needed 300,000,000 UAH, the cost of such a station for Cherkasy – 30-40 million.

Another option, which should not be forgotten, is the use of artesian water. “If there is such a need, it can become a salvation for a third of Kyiv residents,” the director of “City Institute” notes. “So, somewhere up to a third of the water supplied to Kyiv is artesian water, which is extracted from aquifers up to 300 meters deep”. However, Oleksandr Shkin considers this forecast too optimistic and notes that in Kyiv, “artesian water must also be chlorinated”. Developers of Koncha-Zaspa, who drill their own wells and extract water from these horizons for their own needs, he explains, do not fulfill technological standards for sealing the annular space and have already brought blue-green algae there.

And the reserves of such water are restoring, but very slowly. “It is difficult for me to say how much artesian water will be sufficient in Kyiv, where today 88% of the total amount of water – from the Dnipro and Desna water intakes,” the expert continues, “but in Chernihiv, where I was the director of the water channel for 15 years, we cheated. Despite the fact that water consumption is actually decreasing, people began to seriously save drinking water, it would be enough for 200 years”.

Serious considering of artesian wells is unlikely, only because everything cannot be restructured for its use with a flick of a hand, the vice-president of the Ukrainian Association of Water and Sewer Enterprise “Ukrvodokanalecologiya,” Olha Babiy believes. “It takes years. And first you need to develop a transition strategy, and then gradually – one water channel, the second, the third – only then you can do something. Moreover, it requires a lot of money, and in this situation, all water channels solved the problem, not having received any hryvnia from the state or local budgets. For example, “Kyivvodokanal”, in order to fully switch to alternative means of chlorination, needs at least a billion and a half UAH. Where will Kyiv take them, these funds, now? Therefore, there must be an effective state policy, that is, a state program, for which funds should be allocated – and in the autumn such a program should really be made if we want to save the country from”.

Ozonation is good but expensive

Scientists argue that a deficit with chlorine will lead to the long-awaited and forced transition to more environmentally friendly water treatment technologies. For example, the Kyiv chemist-technologist Valerii Guzey notes that the Institute of Colloid Chemistry and Water Chemistry has for many years been engaged in the technology of transition to ozonation. “But it all depends on the fact that in order to switch from chlorine to ozone, it is first necessary to modernize the water filtration plant (to reduce the content of organic impurities before the addition of ozone, otherwise ozonation of organic impurities leads to the formation of carcinogenic compounds) and secondly, to change all the water pipes in the city, and these are thousands of kilometers. They actually have not been changed for all the post-war years and are covered with a layer of infectious mucus, which must be killed by secondary chlorination of water, before it is put into the pipes with huge doses of chlorine, so that, until the water reaches the water taps, so it did not have time to get infected again in the pipes. No civilized country has anything like that. Ozone, unfortunately, quickly loses its bactericidal capacity and cannot provide disinfected water to our taps through such pipes”. That is, the expert notes, this is a complex problem of the generally deplorable state of our utilities.

“The introduction of other methods of water purification on an industrial scale does require very large capital investments,” Vita Strukova, the lawyer, the Ex-Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy of the Kyivvodokanal, says. “And this is not only an expensive whim but also a matter of more than one day. On average, the transition to another technology – with the availability of funding – with taking into account the need to develop design estimates, tender and harmonization procedures can take from 3 to 5 years”.

Oleksandr Shkin told about other technologies that – on a small scale – are already being used in our cities. “In Chernihiv we do not chlorinate water from external sources,” he explained, “because they installed an ultraviolet irradiation unit there. In Kyiv, ammonization is partially used, when – in order to reduce the amount of chlorine – add ammonium. If we simply refuse chlorine (and we use it, because it is the cheapest reagent for water disinfection, abroad, I saw the use of liquid chlorine only at two plants – there they already switched to hypochlorite everywhere) and to supply not chlorinated water, then secondary pollution will develop in pipelines. And then it is very difficult to wash it, because it is a closed system, and there, without oxygen access, a pathogenic microflora can be formed, which is the causative agent of many diseases”.

Interestingly, the program “Drinking Water”, designed for 2011-2020, actually exists in Ukraine. However, judging by everything, there is a little result from it. “It is not enough to approve the drinking water quality standards, the state should have approved a list of measures to comply with these standards,” Vita Strukova notes, “but life shows that we are far from that. We read the report of the Accounting Chamber from February 9, 2016 No. 2-1 on the results of the audit on the implementation of tasks and activities, envisaged by the national target program “Drinking Water of Ukraine” for 2011-2020. Its main conclusion: according to the accounting data of the Ministry of Regional Development, Construction, Housing and Communal Services of Ukraine, in 2012 the state budget financed only 66,5 million UAH (5.6% of the estimated volume of financial support for the program for this period). The document states that the state budget funds that were allocated were used ineffectively and in violation of the requirements of the current legislation. And in 2013-2015, the funds were not allocated at all. The funds in the planned volumes were also not allocated from the local budgets and other sources, and these are almost 70% of the total funding of the program.

In the end, the expected results of its implementation in 2012-2015 have not been achieved. Normative-legal and scientific-technical execution were not ensured. Measures to bring the quality of drinking water to the established standards were not carried out enough and untimely. The lack of funds for servicing post-treatment systems (installations) excludes their exploitation, and the means for their implementation are used unproductively.

Within the framework of the program, which has been running for 10 years already, due to its inadequate organizational and financial support, it is almost impossible to solve the problem of providing citizens with drinking water in the required quantities and in accordance with the established standards. The results of the audit give grounds to state that there are risks of non-fulfillment of the program in five years (till 2020). The current legislation does not provide for a holistic regulation of the issues of providing citizens with drinking water. Measures for the development and reconstruction of centralized water supply and sanitation systems are carried out occasionally and inconsistently. There is practically no permanent source of financing, above all, funds for the reconstruction or construction of these systems”.

And this means, in the opinion of the human rights activist, that all Ukrainians, in fact, became hostages to the unreasoned tariff policy of the state in the sphere of regulation of gas prices and the lack of a thought-out strategy for water resources management, the consequences of which we, unfortunately, will observe in each house. If we continue only to patch where it is torn, we can again face a problem that will put the country on the edge of an emergency. Therefore, it is impossible to think that it will settle down somehow independently.

“Although it is very expensive, we need to change everything,” said the vice-president of the Water channels Association Olha Babiy. “If we take only water supply systems, then the whole country needs somewhere around 50 billion UAH. But this should be an integrated approach, that is, first of all, necessary to solve the problem of updating the networks. Now it is difficult to say how much they can still stand: until there are no electronic maps of networks and real surveys in each city, we cannot have real initial data. According to the documents, the depreciation of networks is 70%, but in fact, no one knows. Because in our cities there is no real state of statistics. To change the situation, the program “Drinking water” should be provided financially and should be launched already from this autumn”. Would the authorities draw correct conclusions on the situation, managed by Dniproazot? It is difficult to say. And there is much remains to be done…

By Larysa Vyshynska

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