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Off-nominal situation with water in Monaco

The government advises those living in apartment buildings to stop drinking tap water – an off-nominal situation before water filtering work is carried out.

Monday evening, the residents of the apartment building ‘Les Jardins d’Apolline’, were advised to stop drinking the tap water as well as stop using it for cooking. The water may still be used for hygienic purposes, such as brushing your teeth and cleaning your home.

The situation arose after the results from the water testing showed turbidity, cloudiness in the water, and excessive amounts of iron. “It is simply a precautionary measure”, explained Jean Castellini, Minister of the Economy, who spoke to the press about the matter, “there is no danger, we are just being careful and reactive”.

A resident described hearing of the news as a ‘bad surprise’, and for those living in the Jardins d’Apoline, who are both worried and angry, the water is completely cut off, creating many problems in their residence. “It’s been months that we’ve been asking for an interministerial unit to take immediate action and sort out the root cause”, pleaded Franck Bruno, president of the landowner association.

This situation is an added issue created by the defective pipe system that affects many apartments in the Condamine area since it was first built. The past few months, water infiltration, traces of mold, instances of turbulent water and pipelines issues are a daily occurrence for the 800 residents of the building that holds 237 apartments. Some have actually had to leave their home for a few months while work was being carried out.

The situation is a delicate one, however the government reassures the residents that there is no sanitary risk, “high rates on iron residue were found in a number of water samples, higher percentages than what is usually found in drinkable water but not above what is considered critical. There is no risk of strong toxicity”, explains Didier Gamerdinger, Minister of Social Affairs and Health. The residents were urgently given mineral water, as a way to diminish the inconvenience caused by not being able to use the water.

By the end of the week, a filtering system will be installed at the beginning of every apartments water source, as well as ceramic filters for every sink in the building to stop any impurities from passing through. “We have ordered these filters that should be delivered in five days time and that should last up to a year”, continued Didier Gamerdinger.

Water tests will be carried out to monitor the iron levels in the water after the changes have been put into place. The government has also started testing the neighbouring building’s water, l’Helios, where instances of water turbulence had occurred. “We will be absolutely honest with the results”, promised Jean Castellini.

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Rent lowered by 15% from the 1st of June

Although they began sometime between 2012 and 2013, pipeline issues are a constant problem for the residents. The first results show that the situation was caused by corrosion in the pipelines that in turn released iron into the water, a complex chemical phenomenon caused by the materials used. “We are trying to determine who is responsible for this poor planning”, stated Cyril Gomez, General Director of the Department of Equipment, Environment and Town Planning, who is overseeing the case. An investigation that has become rather complex as the material choice was made when the Jardins d’Apolline was constructed, and the choice was made following an aesthetical concern.

Re-do all the pipelines?

First step: The distribution manifold of the pipes is being changed, as the structure is partially to blame for the iron contamination. Perhaps an entire reconstruction of the system is needed to resolve the problem? This scenario has not been excluded. For now, the government has decided to lower the rents by 15% starting from the 1st of June, to somehow make up for the troubles caused by this intervention. “We are all victims of the situation. We will take back our rights as homeowners by pursuing all the individuals that are responsible for the root of the problem. Someone needs to pay for all the problems that have been caused, the State will not be passive”, declared Jean Castellini, explaining that all the different companies that took part in the construction of the building have been convened and consulted.

“Minimal risk”

“The cloudiness of the water was the warning sign. The tests that were carried out in May showed that the rates of iron were higher than the norm”, commented Alexandre Bordero, Director of Health. The government was informed about the results on Monday.

In order for water to be safe to drink, the percentage of iron should not exceed 0,2 mg/litre. “Some results came back with rates of 1,72 and 3,79 mg/litre”, continued Alexandre Bordero, presenting a minimal risk. “One would have to drink 60 litres of water everyday to even run the risk of toxicity”. But the precautionary principle is put in place for those that use the water daily. Those restoring the Jardins d’Apolline have been given filters, but for now they continue to use the water as the government believes that there is no risk if you drink a glass of water or use it to make a coffee every now and then.

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