Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mercury, Lead, & Chromium

One of the Ukrainian Mysteries we run into is the appearance of these water trucks around town.  They pull up on the sidewalk, people get in line and fill up their huge ten liter water bottles and head out.  We don't see any money exchange hands and so we are assuming it's free.  But how do people know when they are going to appear?  There doesn't seem to be any pattern of time or location and if you happen to see one, grab your bucket and come running.  

The reason behind the free water is that Ukraine has some of the worst water in Europe.  Boiling the water doesn't help the situation because it's not a bacterial problem.  It's a heavy metals problem from pollution from industry and farming.  So unless you enjoy mercury, lead, and some chromium it's bottled water for you.  I use the water to cook things like pasta...food that we aren't going to drink the water.  If you are making soup it's with bottled water.  I do use the water to brush my teeth but I make sure to never swallow any of it.


  1. maybe the water trucks use Twitter like Food trucks in US Cities.

  2. Hi Matt! Greetings from Kharkov! : ) It's a pity that I only discovered your blog now, after you've left town.

    The water trucks operate on a set schedule. The schedule's usually posted somewhere on the first floor of each building or on a nearby bulletin board outside. (Also, they honk several times as they pull to a building, letting people know they've arrived.... so if you hear honking in Ukraine it either means a wedding procession or a water truck!) The truck will show up at the scheduled time and wait for about 20-30 minutes for local residents to come by with their empty water jugs. Unfortunately it's not free, but at least it's not very expensive- we usually fill up six jugs at a time and it costs about 20 uah. What's also cool is that they offer regular water some days and sparkling water the other days!

    I wish you luck with your new adventures! : )