Keeping the Danube blue

A major port on the River Danube faced serious environmental and human health problems due to decades of infrastructure neglect. By the end of 2010, after completion of Bulgaria’s most extensive water project, Ruse will have a world-class water supply and sewerage system.

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“You want to know how I feel at seeing all this change, such large-scale investment coming in? I feel, for the first time, truly European.”
Sava Savov, manager of ViK

Under the five-year project, the city’s facilities are being upgraded or new ones built to ensure compliance with two key EU laws on drinking water and urban waste water. Ruse is replacing some 20 km of mains water pipes and its new waste water treatment plant allows for expected population growth until 2030, while waste sludge is to be used as an alternative power source.

Controlling pollution, safeguarding supply

Crumbling water infrastructure resulted in thousands of litres of Ruse’s untreated sewerage pouring into the Danube daily. Around 45% of its clean water was also lost from leaks in obsolete pipes, mixing with the untreated sewerage and making water supplies unreliable, expensive and dangerous.

Begun in 2005, the Integrated Water Project involves the Bulgarian Ministry of Regional Development, three consultancies helping the municipality manage the project, and ViK, the water company. The main goals are to protect the environment by reducing pollution in the Danube and to increase the reliability of the city’s water supply and the efficient use of water resources.

The total estimated cost of the project is €57.8 million, with an EU contribution of €35.1 million under the Instrument for Structural Polices for Pre-Accession (ISPA). Almost three-quarters of the financing is for modernising the sewerage system and building a treatment plant, with the rest for improving the supply of clean water.

Biogas from sludge

For Ruse’s 160 000 inhabitants, the project has delivered a completely new sewerage system and treatment plant to deal with the previously untreated domestic and industrial sewerage. The plant meets the latest EU standards and is spread over 42 000 square metres, with a further 100 000 square metres set aside for future use. Remaining sludge will eventually be fed into a digester tank, to produce methane gas that will fuel a biogas power plant and heater.

The city now also enjoys an uninterrupted supply of cleaner water and an extended distribution network. Some 20.5 km of mains pipes are being replaced with new ones twice the diameter, and the new pumping station at the city’s water source is notably 25% more energy efficient than the previous one.

The local environment and inhabitants’ health are sure to benefit from the end of uncontrolled sewerage discharge into the Danube. The project has also preserved drinking water resources, created numerous jobs and plays a role in minimising flood risk.

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