Last week, passersby discovered that raw sewage was pouring into Faxaskjól, in Reykjavík harbour, at a rate of about 750 litres per second. Worse still, it later came to light that this had been going on for ten days, due to a malfunction in the sewage treatment machinery.
Hólmfríður Sigurðardóttir, the environmental manager at Reykjavík Energy, explained to reporters that this was happening because sewage treatment workers had to repair the system, and this left them with two choices: either shut off the system completely, which could have led to raw sewage backing up into peoples’ homes, or letting untreated sewage pour into the harbour.
Not even the mayor knew
It was bad enough that the general public wasn’t informed ahead of time that this was going to happen. Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson told reporters that he learned about the incident for the first time from the news itself.
People were understandably upset, and members of the City Council’s opposition parties wasted no time in taking advantage of it. Arch-conservative and current Morgunblaðið co-editor, Davíð Oddsson, wasted no time in slamming the mayor in column in his own newspaper.
“I mean, 750 litres per second for ten days,” Independence Party councilperson Kjartan Magnússon blustered for reporters. “There isn’t even a sign or a fence or anything.”
What about the beach?
In fairness, Kjartan’s concern isn’t exactly misplaced. The seaside is a popular spot for children to play, especially in the warm summer months. Of particular concern was whether or not Reykjavík’s one and only warm water beach, Nauthólsvík, had been polluted. Such a turn of events would completely ruin what little summer we have here.
However, Óttar Hrafnkelsson, who oversees Nauthólsvík, told listeners of radio station Rás 2 that they have been monitoring the situation closely. Water purity is being tested, and thus far nothing untowards has been discovered. Not that this has stopped people from calling and asking about the situation, which he believes is easy to understand. In his own words: “No one wants to swim in raw sewage.”
Can’t flush this
It turns out, though, that no one is innocent. One of the more damning takeaways from this story is that Reykjavík residents are flushing things down the toilet that they really shouldn’t be, which might have contributed to the sewage treatment facility needing repairs in the first place. These items include tampons, ear swabs, and even diapers. These are all items which are supposed to go in the general garbage, not down the toilet.
As this is being written, city workers are working as fast as they can to get the matter under control. For the time being, it might be advisable to avoid swimming in the water around Reykjavík. And in the name of all that is holy, stop flushing things down the toilet that are meant for your trash can.