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31.10.2008

Sewage pipe pollutes Blue Flag beach, locals claim

Sezer ŞAHİNDAŞ


Environmentalists claim that Gündoğan, one of the most beautiful coves in the Bodrum peninsula, is being polluted by a sewage pipe that empties into the sea.

Environmentalists visited the site with an inspector and environmental engineer Wednesday to document their claims and say they witnessed a minor leak in one of the pipes buried in the sand. But Gündoğan Mayor İbrahim Bilgi denies any wrongdoing.

The beach in Gündoğan has a Blue Flag, indicating it meets stringent environmental standards. But Ayhan Karahan, an activist in Bodrum, said the cove was a threat to public health.

"There is a visible leak in the sewage pipe," he said. "But since it was covered with sand during the season, no one knew about it. This is why many locals suffer from skin diseases. We will sue the municipality for compensation."

A Gündoğan local, Şükriye Şafak, said she moved to the small town from Istanbul for the beauty, adding she was shocked to see "nobody cared about people's health."

"We used this beach all summer. I had itches and rashes after I swam and visited a doctor many times. I now understand the reason for my health problems," she said.

Another local also blamed health problems on the leaking pipe. "Every time I swam here my eyes and face swelled," said Ülker Öztürk. "The officials gambled on our health with such an action. As the sewage pipe is located right over the water pipe, it was not visible until tides removed the sand over it.

"Is there anywhere left to safely swim?" she asked.

Karahan said they had received many complaints about skin-related diseases from people who use the beach in Gündoğan. "When we discovered that the sewage pipe was the source of the complaints, we informed Mayor İbrahim Bilgi. He told us that Gündoğan has the best treatment facility in the Bodrum peninsula."

But the mayor's explanation was not enough to persuade environmentalists. "I guess the treatment facility of the municipality is based on not treating," Karahan argued. The Gündoğan Municipality is a polluter, he said. "We will not turn a blind eye to such ignorance and negligence."  

 Gündoğan mayor Bilgi, on the other hand, said the town has never had a ground-level sewer pipe system. "The pipe environmentalists complain about is not a sewage pipe, it is an intake pump used by some hotels to pump sea water for their pools," said the mayor, who is a member of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP.

 "Our municipality has never laid sewage pipes opening to the sea. Gündoğan beach has a Blue Flag, and we are dedicated to keep it that way."