Prague streams low in heavy metals

But officials warn that other types of pollution pose health risks

Water in Prague’s natural springs is generally low in heavy metals, according to a report from nature conservation group Arnika. But city officials warn that other types of pollution make most city streams unsuitable for drinking.

Sediment samples from four streams were analyzed, and while the results cannot be extended automatically to every natural water source, even samples near industrial sites such as incinerators, and landfills had generally positive results regarding heavy metal contamination. Fish were also examined for heavy metal concentrations and found to have low levels.

Conservationists took samples from the Štěrboholský stream in the Štěrboholy district of Prague 15, the nameless water area near the Malešice municipal waste incinerator in Prague 10, the Mratínský (Červenomlýnský) stream near waste dumps in the northeast of Prague and the Nebušický stream in Prague 6. The last sample came served as a base for comparison, as it was not near pollution sources. Experts measured the levels of seven heavy metals: mercury, lead, cadmium, copper, chromium, zinc, and arsenic.

The levels varied slightly among the monitored localities. The highest concentrations of most substances — copper, lead, zinc, mercury, and cadmium — were recorded in the sediment of Mratínský stream, near the largest municipal waste dumps.

The highest levels of chromium were in the sediment of Štěrboholský stream. The highest level of arsenic was in the Nebušický stream.

Arnika pointed out that arsenic occurs at relatively high concentrations in the geological base of the whole Czech Republic. Surprisingly low levels of heavy metals compared to other sites were found at both sites tested near the municipal waste incinerator in Malešice, according to the report.

“Based on the results of the analyzes, we can safely say that from the point of view of the Czech legislation, the levels of heavy metals in the samples of sediment from Prague streams are low," the report’s author, František Kraus, said in a press release. The law sets out maximum levels of heavy metals in water, and the samples were below the legal limits.

Nevertheless, the negative impact of the waste dumps was shown. Two mixed fish samples from Mratínský and Šárecký streams had mercury and lead to low concentrations. “We have to emphasize that both dangerous heavy metals occur in the ecosystems of small waterways and they have a negative impact on the life of aquatic organisms as well as on human health,” Arnika, chairman Jindřich Petrlík stated.

Arnika is still evaluating the presence of other toxic substances and will report further findings at the beginning of 2018.

The study was established within the framework of the project Reviving Prague Waters (Oživení pražských vod), which has the main objective of improving the quality of three smaller watercourses examined in the testing.

The city also does its own testing. Water quality is monitored in 38 different locations. “In the long run, we are seeing improving results, a positive trend is recorded on 25 profiles out of a total of 38,” City Councilor Jana Plamínková (STAN) said, according to daily Pražský deník.

One of the cleanest sources is the Lhotský stream, on the other hand, the most polluted in the past several years has been the Komořanský steam.

Despite the positive evaluations, City officials caution against drinking from municipal streams due to possible negative health effects.

Jiří Rom, a specialist in caring for protected nature areas of the city, said that natural springs to not meet the sanitary standards for drinkable water. “The vast majority of the wells are loaded with fecal pollution,” he said.

That does not mean that the water contains sewage. It looks clean and does not smell, But there is no way to keep traces of fecal contamination out of the water. The city only responds to the issue if there is seepage of raw sewage, which seldom occurs.

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