This April, the activists of the Social movement “For the right of citizens to environmental safety” performed a large amount of work evaluating quality of drinking water piped through a tap in Ukrainian cities and towns. They collected more than 200 water samples and conducted a study on 27 indicators to characterize quality in a specialized certified laboratory.
There is another interview with Mr. Vladimir Goncharenko, a leader of the social movement and academician of the International Academy of Ecology Man and Nature Protection Sciences, concerning the water the Ukrainians drink and threats to national security.
—Vladimir, what have the studies shown?
—Frankly speaking, we were knocked over by the results. It is safe to state the fact that in most cities and towns of Ukraine, where surface water is a source of drinking water, piped water is non-drinking. It is diluted with household, industrial and storm runoffs. (Test results are available on the site www.ecopravo.org.ua and in part published in this issue).
From time to time, some employees of the sanitary-epidemiological services call on to boil the liquid in order to make it potable. However, this is a fraud. The studies have shown that the longer we boil it, the more dangerous it becomes, as chlorine reacts with organic matter and carcinogenic organochlorine compounds are produced.
In my opinion, the standpoint of sanitary-epidemiological services is at least strange: their experts are aware of a dangerous water piped through a tap to human health, however, no action is taken and people are not informed.
— However, people do their best to protect themselves: for example, they use filters for water post treatment.
— Nevertheless, the effect of the filters is not enough. The water from centralized water supply systems does not meet sanitary requirements and state standards. It is toxic to the extent that it is impossible to clean it up in most cases. Manufacturers of water filters do nothing but misinform the Ukrainians.
We carried out experiments with the most popular with population filters for water post treatment and found that they can hardly clean up faucet water from organic contaminants (chlorine substance, pesticides, petroleum products, phosphates, surfactants, etc.). Only multi-stage reverse osmosis water treatment systems are able to remove accumulated toxic and poisonous organic matter. The products of the company Zepter were used in our research. After such a treatment, the amount of useful minerals reduces significantly; organic poisons and other harmful substances disappear. I believe we’d better drink this water, because necessary minerals for our body we mainly get from food. However, not everyone can buy filters, as they simply unaffordable to an ordinary citizen.
— Can you adduce any reason for this situation? As lately as 30 years ago you could drink water almost straight from the Dnieper river and small rivers.
—The main source of providing water to the population of Ukraine is the water basin of the Dnieper River with 6 Dnieper cascade reservoirs, a network of large, medium, small reservoirs and ponds which accumulate 49 billion tons of water—it is half as much as annual flow of the river itself.
On the one hand, construction of water-storage basins on the Dnieper River provided an opportunity for the development of navigation, power generation, as well as provided large amounts of water inventory for water supply and irrigation of arid regions and fish breeding. Annually, about 12 billion tonnes of water are withdrawn to meet the needs of industry and agriculture, and about 3 billion tons of water are used by the population.
On the other hand, a large-scale regulation of the river has caused unprecedented destruction of existing biocommunication. It has disrupted ecological balance and changed water exchange conditions. In comparison with natural conditions, it slowed down 15-30 times.
Today the Dnieper River has lost its self-cleaning function. Irresponsible economic activities have led to continuous flooding of large areas of Ukraine, destruction of the Dnieper river as a source of drinking water for 80% of the population of Ukraine, potential environmental and social disasters as a result of a dam failure of the Dnieper cascade during earthquakes, liquefaction of dams because of long useful life and high floods, terrorist attacks and other accidents.
Moreover, due to uncontrolled discharge of industrial, utility and storm water runoff, tens of thousands of businesses turned the Dnieper into the main waste channel of Ukraine. One of its roles today is to secrete industrial crimes and dilute polluted flows, which are then piped through the public water supply networks and used for field irrigation and fish farming.
Do not forget that the failure of one of the dams will cause a “domino effect” that will destroy the industry of the eastern region and create an ecological disaster zone in the flooded area. According to experts, the sudden destruction of, for example, Kremenchug flood-gate will automatically cause the destruction of lower-level ones. Channels that provide cities with water will stop working, whereby the Crimea and the Donbass may run out of water.
An even greater tragedy for Ukraine and Europe may become a failure of dams resulting in a nuclear accident at the six nuclear units of Zaporozhe Atomic Power Station or drift of radioactive nuclear fuel waste located at the station as well as radioactive waste in Dneprodzerzhinsk (more than 20 million tons). This will result in radioactive contamination of the Black and Mediterranean seas. At least 24 maritime states will be affected.
— So, we wanted the best, but it turned out as always?
— Indeed. Use of the Dnieper River water for irrigation is a huge concern because of pollution by hazardous chemicals, which make cultivated products ecologically dangerous to humans. Water transport in Ukraine is not profitable, and fish farming in contaminated water can lead to serious damage to people who will eat it.
In regard to drinking water, the existing water treatment technologies cannot provide purified and safe Dnieper water.
Estimating the cost of reconstruction of the hydroelectric power station, standing on the Dnieper River for more than half a century, experts have concluded, that the cascade of reservoirs is unprofitable despite the fact that its existence has led to enormous costs of resettlement, mitigation of consequences of continuous flooding, without mentioning the loss of fertile agricultural lands.
The current condition of the Dnieper River basin and, therefore, the quality of drinking water threatens the Ukrainians with possible biological and genetic degradation and unsustainable development of the country.
— What should we do about that?
— Each of us, especially the owners of businesses must comply with the law’s provisions. Thus, according to the Water Code and other laws of Ukraine, no one is allowed to discharge untreated industrial, domestic and storm sewage into the surface and ground water, whereby destroying the national wealth of the people— drinking water. If you discharge untreated sewage, than you pay fines, which make it more profitable to build water and wastewater treatment facilities, rather than violate the law.
After all, a must for every businessman is to conduct on the territory either leased or owned rain harvesting from hard-surface areas, purify rain water from contamination and then discharge it into surface water or use it for their own technological needs. In Ukraine, only about 1% of business entities have local rain storm treatment facilities.
Nobody has the right either to build up the coastal areas of water bodies closer than 100 meters, or to discharge untreated sewage from these bodies directly into water reservoirs. In our country, it’s everywhere. As a result, there are almost no potable water sources in Ukraine, polluted surface water, which cannot be made a potable and cannot be treated with filters available to the population.
— Vladimir, how do you assess the situation at our nuclear power stations?
— Designed for the blessings of civilization, a huge global nuclear industry potential is not fully provided with engineering and environmental safety systems, which would completely exclude any risk of accidents.
Who else but Japan could serve as a role model of technology compliance?! However, Man is powerless against might of nature and time. Today business groups which “supervise” nuclear power plants and professors feathered by the Chernobyl tragedy try to convince us in the safety and absence of alternative to replace nuclear power in Ukraine.
And I understand them. They consider Chernobyl to be a cash cow. For the years of independence, over 12 billion dollars have been spent in terms of Chernobyl program. Nonetheless, there weren’t any big strides in solving the existing problems. The work of nuclear power plants and life extension programs are a possible 30% kickback of all contractual works at these stations. Completion or construction of new nuclear power stations is Klondike, a cushy job. Because of the managerial chaos and blooming corruption, the issues of strengthening of nuclear power plants security do not prevail over the mechanisms to ensure regular and big kickbacks.
Isn’t it a crime that, constructing new nuclear units and extending the life of existing ones in order to be able to sell excess energy abroad, we turn Ukraine into nuclear waste repository site? More than 125 million tons of radioactive waste has already been accumulated only in the Dnepropetrovsk and Kirovograd regions. We do not know what to do with this waste and spent nuclear fuel. This waste is tens of thousands times more dangerous than that of thermal power plants.
For Japan, mitigation of consequences of NPP accident required the mobilization of resources of all country as well as international aid. What will the Ukraine do in a similar situation with its ailing economy, unstable political system and outdated technologies?
—What is the solution for energy-dependent Ukraine?
— The energy intensity of Ukraine is extremely high and on average twice as high as in other parts of the world, 4.5 times higher than in Eastern Europe. In terms of energy consumption per unit GDP in the world, Ukraine ranks towards the bottom: about 170 million tons of fuel per year, which amounts to 0.65 kg per 1 UAH GDP. Annual losses of the national economy on inefficient energy use are estimated at 15-17 billion US dollars.
Indeed, Ukraine is dependent on Russian gas, oil and nuclear fuel. In fact, we do not make use of our own huge potential of renewable power sources. It includes wind, hydro, solar power, biomass, biogas, environmental, geothermal energies, etc. Renewable power sources could meet all our energy needs: their capacity is 100 million tons of oil equivalent per year.
In speaking of small-scale hydropower engineering, in the mid 60s we had about 2 thousand of small hydropower plants, which could produce more than 8 billion kilowatt / hour annually. Now, there are at most 40 plants left. Today, water-and-power potential of small rivers is estimated at 12,0-12,5 billion kilowatt / hour, and produces about 0.5 billion kilowatt / hour annually.
Annual capacity of economically sound wind energy is about 40 billion kilowatt / hour per year, solar energy—5.7 billion kilowatt / hour annuall6y, bio-energy—about 27 billion kilowatt / hour annually.
Every year we consume about 150 billion kilowatt / hour of electricity, including a public consumption of about 33 billion kilowatt / hour. If we reduce power consumption to the average world energy consumption, than Ukraine will require maximum 100 billion kilowatt / hour of electricity per year, taking into account its future development. It will enable us to refuse from nuclear, most part of thermal energies as well as large-scale hydropower engineering.
The task that currently faces us is to use energy efficiently, ensure differentiation of energy sources as well as reliability thereof, minimize the harmful effects of energy resources consumption on the natural environment and man, find the most profitable innovative decisions and invest in the advanced energy-efficient technologies.