Over 100 hospitalized in Daghestan after drinking tainted water

16 January 2020
Kizlyar administration officials, employees of Rospotrebnadzor, and employees of the Ministry of Health of Daghestan at the site of the Kizlyar water supply accident. Photo: Ria Novosty Daghestan.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Republic of Daghestan opened a criminal case on Wednesday after an outbreak of gastroenteritis in Kizlyar in the north of the republic.

Between 6 and 16 January, more than 100 people were hospitalized with inflammation of the stomach and intestines in Kizlyar after drinking tainted water.

The spokesperson at the Ministry of Health of Daghestan told OC Media that at the moment the number of victims is 102, half of whom are children. According to the representative of the ministry, the health status of patients is currently  at a ‘moderate’ level of severity.

The Ministry of Health of Daghestan has called on the population of the city to drink boiled or bottled water and to carefully wash vegetables and fruits with boiling water.

The press service of the Office of Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Welfare and Protection) of Daghestan told OC Media that contaminated drinking water, which is supplied to the houses of Kizlyar residents through water lines on which an accident recently occurred, is considered to be the preliminary cause of poisoning.

The press service of the Daghestani administration of the Investigative Committee told OC Media that there is an ongoing active investigation into the cause of the outbreak.  The Investigative Committee additionally stated that a criminal case has into the ‘the provision of services that do not meet the requirements of the safety of life or the health of consumers’.

‘The fault of local residents’

Chupalav Shamkhalov, first deputy head of the Kizlyar administration, told OC Media that the contamination of drinking water was caused by local residents. According to Shamkhalov, they laid sewer pipes without a permit, connected them to the city drainage system and damaged an existing water pipe below.

Shamkhalov said that clean water would be distributed among the affected population and that additional pipes would be laid that would connect people's homes to clean water while the cause of the contamination was addressed and the initial water supply disinfected. 

Ali Aliyev, a resident of Kizlyar, told OC Media that no one drinks tap water in Kizlyar, and most people fell ill after bathing, as was the case with his children.

Salimat Omarova from Kizlyar also told OC Media that it is clear from the color of the tap water that it is unsuitable for human consumption. According to Omarova, this is a long-term problem in their city, and the authorities are inactive, but only now it has grown to such proportions. Additionally, Omarova said that tap water in Kizlyar is rarely supplied 24 hours a day. Usually, she said, residents have water for half of each day.

On 27 December 2019, the ‘Molodyozh Dagestana’ [Youth of Daghestan] newspaper reported that under the ‘My Daghestan — My Water’ project, initiated by the head of Daghestan Vladimir Vasilyev, two new water storage devices were installed in the Kizlyar water supply system. They were supposed to increase the number of hours of that water was supplied to residents from 10 to 14. Also, as part of this project, a 7 km-long water line system was to be repaired.

The Kizlyar administration told OC Media that 80% of the city's water supply networks are worn out and that ₽170 million ($2,757,000) is earmarked for renewing the water supply in 2020. By 2021, the administration claims, the water will be available to Kizlyar residents 24 hours a day.

Repeated contamination

Cases of drinking water contamination in Daghestan occur regularly.

From 2 to 14 January 2019, a similar outbreak of gastroenteritis occurred in the village of Leninaul, in the Kazbekovskiy district in the west of Daghestan. Seventy seven people were recorded as having fallen ill due to the contaminated water. Subsequently, the director of ‘Progress’, a water supply company, was brought to trial for being in violation of the concession agreement and sanitary and epidemiological rules. He was also accused of failing to develop a work program for industrial monitoring of water quality and not taking timely measures to address the contamination of the water supply.

On 17 March, more than 100 people with signs of gastroenteritis due to consumption of poor-quality drinking water were brought to Khasavyurt hospitals in western Daghestan.

In September and November 2019, in the village of Novo-Vikri, Kayakent district, in the south of Daghestan, 24 children were fell ill from drinking tap water, which was later revealed to have been polluted by faecal matter.

In March 2018, another case of water contamination occurred in the village of Arani in the Khunzakh district in central Daghestan, 25 residents were hospitalised. In March 2017, students of the village of Prirechensk, a suburb of Buynaksk in central Daghestan, also fell victim to water contamination. In that incident 40 schoolchildren were taken to the hospital.

The biggest case of water contamination in Daghestan occurred in October 2016 in Makhachkala. The authorities opened a criminal case, however no one was found guilty. Magomed Murtazaliyev, the general director of Makhachkalavodokanal, a privately owned company and the city’s main water supply operator, was initially detained, though six months later the charges against him were dropped.

In January 2019, the Daghestani prosecutor's office announced that it would sue Makhachkalavodokanal, as residents of Makhachkala and its suburbs continue to receive drinking water that does not meet sanitary and hygienic requirements. In February 2019, the company was fined ₽10,000 ($160).

[Read on OC Media: Brown water flows from taps in Kabardino-Balkaria villages]

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