The Ministry of Health has amended the Rulebook on drinking water quality to allow higher levels of ammonia, boron, chloride and sodium. The new rules, which entered into force at the end of April, were met with criticism from part of the public, while the Ministry and experts claim there is no reason to fear.
The maximum allowable ammonia level has been increased from 0.1 to 0.5 milligrams per liter of water, boron from 0.3 to 1 mg/l, sodium from 150 to 200 mg/l, and chloride from 200 to 250 mg/l.
The League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV) has strongly condemned the adoption of the new Rulebook, claiming that this decision directly harms citizens of Zrenjanin who still do not have safe drinking water. The party believes that the authorities want to use the new Rulebook to bypass the problem of the inadequate drinking water quality in Zrenjanin.
The use of drinking water from the local waterworks in Zrenjanin was prohibited back in 2004 over increased levels of arsenic. After a lot of problems, a new water treatment plant has recently been tested, but only for a brief period, because the water quality was not satisfactory.
The Ministry of Health has responded to criticism by saying that the previous Rulebook was adopted in 1999 and that the World Health Organization (WHO) has since recommended the drafting of a drinking water health safe plan as the first step towards securing drinking water health safety.
In accordance with the third edition of the WHO drinking-water quality Guidelines, published in 2004, many countries have changed their drinking water regulatory framework.
In the process of EU accession talks and harmonization of regulations regarding drinking water, the Ministry’s working group, in line with the EU legislation, drafted a new Rulebook, the Ministry said in a news release, adding that the increased maximum levels are identical to those prescribed in the EU countries.
Harmonizing with EU and WHO standards, no threat to humans – experts
Božo Dalmacija, professor at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Novi Sad, has told N1 that the Rulebook was not changed because of Zrenjanin only, but because of all the cities in Vojvodina where water quality is poor. He said that the new Rulebook was proposed by him and his colleagues because domestic standards had been too stringent compared to those in the EU and those defined by the WHO.
The new Rulebook will reduce the costs of water treatment plant construction and maintenance, Dalmacija said.
The investment necessary under the previous Rulebook was about EUR 1.2 billion, while with the new one it has gone down to about EUR 700 million.
Professors at the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Belgrade, Goran Roglić and Dragan Manojlović, have backed the Ministry’s explanation that the increased levels are in line with EU standards and WHO recommendations, adding that there is no danger to human health, Blic reported.