İZMİR – TDN with wire dispatches
Following weeks of extensive discussions about İzmir's drinking water, which has shown an increasing amount of arsenic recently -- a phenomenon primarily attributed to global warming – İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu has tried to dispel concerns. Kocaoğlu declared Monday at a press conference that the city's drinking water does not have problems, except for an increasing amount of arsenic in the wells that serve the Karşıyaka and Bornova districts. He emphasized that the city has taken every precaution to protect the wells when it sees a rise in arsenic.
According to Kocaoğlu, most of Turkey's water has the same problem, and added he has asked the health minister to publicize the estimated arsenic levels in 81 cities. “The pollution, the use of pesticides unconsciously, tectonic movements caused by global warming, all have effects on the rate of arsenic,” said Kocaoğlu, adding, “All the other asset rates are the same, but arsenic rates show an increase.” İzmir did not experience an arsenic problem in its water before the summer of 2007. “As soon as we were alarmed by the arsenic rates in the wells, we took action,” said Kocaoğlu, promising that the arsenic problem will be solved in four months.
He claimed that, except Karşıyaka and Bornova, the water in other districts is not unhealthy to drink, but according to officials for the İzmir Municipality, decreasing the level from 50 to 10 micrograms, which is prescribed by a recently passed motion, is impossible by natural means. Although there have been no new investments, Kocaoğlu said, the city is adopting measures to bring an end to water shortages and to clean the water. Arsenic, a poisonous chemical element, is found as compounds with oxygen, chlorine, sulfur, carbon, hydrogen, lead, gold and iron, and is present in many rock-forming minerals. Arsenic in drinking water causes bladder, lung and skin cancer, and may cause kidney and liver cancer. A study conducted in 1999 found that arsenic harms the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as heart and blood vessels, and causes serious skin problems. It also may cause birth defects and reproductive problems.The World Health Organization's (WHO) standard is set at 10 micrograms per liter.
Professor Ali Osman Karababa, member of the Ege University Faculty of Medicine, criticized the İzmir Municipality for acting late to inform İzmir locals about the arsenic crisis. "No reasonable person can approve the attitude of the municipality. They should have been transparent and share the information."
Giving a speech at the conference, organized by the İzmir branch of the Syndicate of Workers of Health and Social Services, Karababa said the municipality should share information regarding the arsenic effusion in underground water supplies. Stating that, with sharing, the action of taking precautions collectively can progress and be more effective, Karababa said, "We learned about the arsenic in our waters from different sources. No reasonable person can approve the attitude of the municipality.” Due to geological layers, the arsenic may have been coming from the industrial pollution from the Gediz delta or from agricultural chemistry, Karababa said. Karababa pointed out the dangers arsenic poses to human life and the risk of cancer it creates and said the really big danger that awaits İzmir is the gold mine in Efem Pit. Stating that the water of the Tahtalı and Çamlı Dams may be polluted because the gold mine is positioned under the basin that feeds the dams, Karababa said, "Then we may have to leave İzmir. Our waters will be polluted with heavy metal."
The gold mine in Efemçukuru
Professor Ali Osman Karababa pointed out the danger arsenic poses to human life and the risk of cancer it creates, and said the important danger that awaits İzmir is the gold mine in Efemçukuru village.
The government had reached a decision in December last year that 35 parcels of land near Efemçukuru were to be nationalized in order for them to be handed over to the mining company Tüprag Madencilik, owned by the Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold Corporation.
Stating that the water of the Tahtalı and Çamlı Dams could be polluted because the gold mine is positioned under the basin that feeds the dams, Karababa said, "Then we may have to leave İzmir. Our waters will be polluted with heavy metals."
Dr. Ahmet Soysal said the municipality needed to provide a detailed stream of information and report all other scanning of heavy metals besides arsenic. Soysal pointed out that the Göksu water basin near the river Gediz was polluted due to industrialization and that arsenic may have been the reason, suggesting that the required measurements should be taken. Soysal suggested having a strategy of general purification instead of working well by well.