Chlorine shortage threatens clean water across Ukraine

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Two thirds of the Ukrainian population could find itself without clean water in the next month after the only factory producing liquid chlorine halted production.

Dniproazot, a chemical plant belonging to oligarchs Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennady Bogolyubov’s Privat Group, ceased operations two weeks ago due to increased gas prices, according to the company. However, some believe the stop could be politically motivated, Ekonomichna Pravda reported.

More than 170 water treatment and supply plants across the country use Dniproazot’s liquid chlorine to clean the water that is then released into Ukraine’s taps.

Without chlorine, the filtration systems and gravity settling systems will take on more of the burden of water treatment, Andriy Nikitin, director of the Zhytomyr treatment and supply plant, told Ekonomichna Pravda.

“Probably the filtration material will quickly fail,” he said. “It will need to be changed, which also requires additional funds.”

While water treatment plants do have some stored chlorine, it is limited. In the cities of Kropyvnytsky and Vinnytsia, the supplies can last for seven to 10 days, while other cities can hold out for up to 40.

Either way, backup supplies are not a long term solution. The association of Ukrainian water enterprises, Ukrvodokanalekologiya, led by Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Zubko, is working to come to an agreement with Dniproazot to relaunch production. So far it has not been successful.

There are few other available solutions to the problem. Launching another factory to produce liquid chlorine would take over a year and cost $1.14 million, according to Ekonomichna Pravda. Purchasing liquid chlorine abroad also appears improbable. Transporting it to Ukraine requires the usage of special container technology and would pose serious bureaucratic challenges, according to Nikitin.

The state company Kyivvodokanal, which supplies water to the Ukrainian capital, says there will be no problems with clean water in the city.

“The city of Kyiv currently has enough liquid chlorine, which Kyivvodokanal uses to disinfect water,” general director Dmytro Novytsky said on July 9.

The company is also looking for ways to replace chlorine in case of shortages, he added.

Ukraine’s water system has long suffered from neglect. In 2015, Japan issued the country a low-interest $1.1 billion loan to fully rebuild Kyiv’s derelict Bortnytska Aeration Station.

Bortnytska, the city’s only sewage plant, was built roughly 50 years ago, when the population was significantly smaller. Since then, it has seen only minor running repairs. Without serious renovation, the system posed a significant pollution risk to the city.

More recently, a third of Kyivans have been left without hot water, many for over two months, due to disagreements between Ukraine’s state gas monopoly Naftogaz, Kyivteploenergo – the company that heats the water and that belongs to the city administration – and Kyivenergo, which is controlled by Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov.

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