Drinking Water Assessment in Europe

Assessing Potential Drinking Water Impacts: Sangaj, Novi Sad, Serbia

Environmental Risk Management (ERMI) personnel recently aided a youth camp in the village of Sangaj in Novi Sad, Serbia. Originally a refugee camp after World War II, the village is situated between the Danube River and the NIS Petroleum Refinery (NIS) in Novi Sad. 

Serbia was one of six republics that formed after the Cold War in the territory formerly known as Yugoslavia. Ethnic cleansing in this region prompted NATO in 1999 to bomb bridges, communications and energy production facilities, including the NIS petroleum refinery located directly adjacent to Sangaj. The bombing caused extensive soil and groundwater impact at NIS, and contaminants were presumed to flow from the refinery toward the Danube River, beneath Sangaj. 

See aerial photo below (Sangaj is the smaller triangular development left of center, and NIS is the larger triangular development in the center of the photo.).

Sangaj is an impoverished community consisting mainly of the largest minority group in Europe known as Roma, which has been poorly treated—both during and after the conflict. Many of the children in the camp have lived their entire lives in Sangaj. The last population estimate for the village of Sangaj was 2,500 people, several years ago.

ERMI was concerned that the children and citizens of the community were drinking contaminated groundwater based on the NIS bombing and site observations.

ERMI coordinated sampling, laboratory analysis, and data interpretation for six drinking-water samples taken from the village of Sangaj. The water in all six samples was tested for dozens of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds along with some specific petroleum tests. More tests could have been run; the analyses were not considered exhaustive.

The results were favorable. Benzene and other petroleum chemicals of concern that we were testing for were not detected at levels high enough to indicate a concern for drinking water. We were relieved to conclude that the village of Sangaj may not have a significant health concern related to NIS, based on the data from our sample locations.

Feature Image Credit: Novi Sad / Dusan Tizic