The consumption of unboiled water from the spring could cause diarrhea, vomiting and other stomach-related problems, said Evija Ozola, the senior environmental specialist of the Valmiera district.
After carrying out water quality tests at six springs in Valmiera district, it was concluded that some – such as the water of Oliņu spring – should not cause health problems. However, other springs are potentially problematic.
The family of local resident Sintija has been taking water from the Oliņu spring for several generations. She has never doubted the quality of the water. "Sometimes there are lines of people standing here. We even wait in lines," said Sintija.
However, the spring is not an official water collection point, so the municipality does not recommend taking water from it, despite the test results.
For the Vaidava spring, the results were worse. "Two units of intestinal enterococci were detected per 250 milliliters of water. Therefore, this water should not be consumed unboiled. Doing so can lead to diarrhoea, vomiting and similar stomach problems," explained Ozola.
Taking water direct from spring sources remains popular across the whole of Latvia, and many swear by the health-giving properties of their favorite spring, or the superior taste when compared to bottled water. There is also the fact that it comes free of charge to those willing to make the trek to the source with a few empty bottles. However, the perceived quality of the water is not always confirmed by scientific tests.
The reasons for the poor quality of spring water are various, but mostly it is due to human activities. Pollution not only enters rivers, but also penetrates deeper underground.
"In cases where the water is in urban areas or there are houses nearby, it is logical that the quality of the water may be lower. There may be forms of pollution from human activity, such as some waste that seeps slowly into the ground and reaches the source waters," stated Kristaps Caune, head of the Hydrogeology Department of the Latvian Center for Environment, Geology and Meteorology.
Spring water is very sensitive to the effects of the surrounding environment, and the results of the analyzes can change over the course of days. "These results were taken on July 11. We will do another test this year," said Ozola.