Waste water pollution near Bulgarian beaches has largely been remedied, despite some recurring incidents. Now Bulgaria is aiming to remedy water treatment deficiencies to respond to a growing population and to prevent environmental emergencies.
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Varna is Bulgaria's third largest city and the heart of summer tourism in the country. The municipality is littered with resorts and that is why water management is so critical there.
Old water treatment facilities and inadequate regulations once made it impossible to cope with the number of tourists in the area. However, reconstruction is now underway .
One of the latest examples of this reconstruction is the Golden Sands waste water treatment plant. It was built in 1983 and has now been renovated. Its design is innovative. It is enclosed in concrete so nearby hotels and holidaymakers won't be disturbed by the smell.
Ivanka Borissova works for the Golden Sands waste water treatment plant. She tells us that "the plant was modernised and its capacity increased in 2020". The plant now has a much larger capacity, it's big enough for a population of over 72 000. Before its renovation it only had a capacity for a population of around 14 000.
Other regulations were also factored into renovations. Water discharge is now at a distance of 2200 meters from the shoreline. The old national standard was only 700 meters away and leaks would often occur less than 200 meters from beaches.
A grim reminder of this is the enormous leak of waste water which occurred a year ago in the lake that splits Varna in two. Emil Dimitrov, Ecology Minister at the time, dubbed it an "environmental disaster". In underwater videos sent to the Bulgarian national media, the giant leak was clearly visible.
The leak took over 9 months to repair and even reoccurred. Pipes pumping sewage from residential areas to water treatment facilities should be buried under the seafloor but this is not yet the case. The authorities also remain unclear about the deadline for this underground pipe to be completed.
Hristo Ivanov, the Deputy Mayor of Varna, says that they are expecting the "technical solution" for this underground pipe to be presented by the end of May. However, he insists that "environmental pollution has been stopped" and that "all waste water from the Asparuhovo (a district in Varna) pump station is currently being channelled to the water treatment facility".
With the exception of a few resorts at the southern end of the coast, the Bulgarian shores are now free from waste water. However, sewage and water supply systems across the country still require an investment of over five billion euros to comply with European standards.