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Bacteria found in water vending machines

Recent tests on Nicosia tap water, bottled water and water from roadside coin-operated vending machines have identified potentially dangerous bacteria in three of the 12 samples.

An article in Politis newspaper on Monday reported that it had at the end of last month collected 12 samples of water in the Nicosia area and, after having them professionally tested, found that one contained coliform bacteria and two contained Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. All the samples have since been passed on the Public Health Services which will, in some cases, go ahead with testing of its own.

The paper said one of the samples was from Nicosia Water Board’s main line, five were from different brands of bottled water purchased from a kiosk, and five samples were from randomly selected coin-operated water vending machines from various areas around the capital city and each of which belonged to a different company.  All the bacteria were found in three of the vending machines.

The coliform bacteria were, according to Politis, found in a sample from the vending machine situated in Makedonitissa Street in Strovolos, operated by G. Koumas and selling water from Ayios Nicolaos Stegis.

When the tests were repeated 10 days later, an even higher presence of coliform bacteria were found at the same vending machine. The first time round, 26 coliform forming units per 100 ml (CFU/100 mL) of water were found, rising to 32 CFU/100 mL the second time. According to the relevant law, there should be none at all. The presence of coliform bacteria is commonly used indicator of sanitary quality of foods and water.

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The second round of tests also found two different samples contained Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, which can cause disease in plants and animals including humans, which had not been found the first time round.

These were in the vending machine on G. Anagnostopoulou Street in Strovolos, operated by A. Leptos and selling water from Moutoulla (21 CFU/100 mL), and the machine on Tseriou Avenue in Strovolos, operating under the name Vaki and selling water from Spilia (12 CFU/100 mL).

The paper also determined that Health Services certification for two of the machines had expired, one last month and one a year ago.

After being briefed on the results, Head of Environmental Health Services, Medical and Public Health Services Alvertos Karis said the results of the paper’s study did not warrant immediate measures. These, he said, included instructing the vending machine operators to immediately empty and clean out their tanks before a new sample was taken to ensure the problem had been solved.

However, Karis said he had instructed Services’ personnel to take official samples from the offending machines and would act on the results of these.

He also noted that just because a vending machine’s certification had expired, it did not mean it was not still being checked by the Health Services.

Karis added that the quality of drinking water in Cyprus had significantly improved over the past decade: “A lot of things have changed over the past few years. The quality of our water has been upgraded because of the measures taken and regulations which are enforced and because of stricter checks”.

He continued: “The fact that you do not find any problems with bottled water, just in the vending machines, means that most of our water, not to say the conservative majority, is of excellent quality”.

There are some 1,500 coin-operated water vending machines dotted around Cyprus.

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