Ivan Portnih, mayor of the Bulgarian Black Sea coastal city of Varna, is accused of not taking action to deal with the repeated pollution of Lake Varna with sewage between 2019 and 2021.
Ivan Portnih during his election campaign in 2013. Photo: Ivan Portnih/Facebook
Prosecutors in the city of Varna on Tuesday charged mayor Ivan Portnih with inaction over the pollution of Lake Varna, a major lake on the country’s Black Sea coast, which caused public health to be endangered.
If found guilty, Portnih could face up to five years in prison.
The pollution was caused by faecal water entering the lake through a broken sewer pipe between 2019 and 2021.
According to reports by dnevnik.bg in June last year, at least three million cubic meters of faecal water leaked into the lake.
The reports indicated that the first issues with the pipe occurred in August 2019, but no action was taken until April 2020, when the story broke in the media. The pipe was then repaired four times between 2020 and 2021.
Local prosecutors are expected to make a statement about whether or not Portnih must step down from his post as mayor.
Portnih has not yet commented on the accusations, and according to local media, he has not yet been arrested.
Portnih, who was born into a Russian-Bulgarian family in Sofia in 1976. At the age of 25, he became a general manager of the Grand Hotel chain in Varna and nearby resorts.
In 2011, he became a member of the centre-right GERB party, which dominated the political scene from 2008 to 2021.
Portnih became an MP in 2013, and was then elected mayor of Varna. In 2019, he was re-elected, taking 60.79 per cent of the vote amid a record turnout of 23.27 per cent.
During his time in office, Varna, the third biggest city in Bulgaria and home to over 347,000 people, went through major infrastructural changes, some causing mixed reactions.
Over the past few years, local media have reported numerous cases of possible mismanagement of state and EU funds in the city, connected with construction in green areas and dubious investments.
Environmental issues have plagued the legacy of the last GERB-led government. In January 2020, a former environment minister was arrested for deliberate mismanagement following a water crisis in the town of Pernik, near Sofia.
Source link: balkaninsight.com