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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Escaping Summer Heat Has Plenty of Hazards

MTThree boys splashing around on a sweltering day in the water off Streshnyovo beach.
When a heat wave hits Moscow and the weather gets unbearable, the glittering waters of the city's lakes and ponds offer a tempting relief. But health officials warn that danger lurks in the depths of most of these reservoirs.

Moscow has roughly 600 lakes, ponds and rivers, but only 12 sites are relatively safe for a dip, said Vladimir Kotlyar, an environmental expert with the State Health Inspectorate. The rest are contaminated with everything from broken glass and oil byproducts, to intestinal worms, malaria and typhoid fever.

One more spot -- Borisovskiye Prudy, in the southern part of the city -- has been deemed safe for sunbathing. But while the beach is fairly clean, the water is not, so stay out.

Some bathing sites have been blacklisted because they are not equipped with changing rooms or beach guards, or are not supplied with fresh sand, said Leonid Vovk, the health service's spokesman. "But in general, in the absolute majority of cases, the problem is the same old dirty riverbeds, grimy water surface and some chemical or biological elements whose level exceeds the norm," Vovk said.

Where the Moscow River flows in a graceful bend around green, rolling hills of Vorobyovy Gory, scores of Muscovites can been seen sunbathing on the grassy shores or even venturing into the water on summer days. But the smart thing to do is to resist any temptation to join them, health officials warn.

The river "is polluted with just about everything," Kotlyar said. "You can find the entire periodic table there."

Muscovites are notorious for discarding empty beer bottles in the water after picnicking on the shore, so stepping on a shard of glass while bathing at unapproved sites is not uncommon. At the officially approved spots, the lake or river floor is supposed to be cleaned by divers, Kotlyar said.

But broken glass may not be the greatest danger.

"At the sites where bathing is not allowed, there can be all sorts of things," Kotlyar said. The larvae of malaria-bearing mosquitoes live in the waterweeds. The water teems with dysentery and typhoid fever bugs and intestinal worm germ cells. In a light case, the latter may cause a "swimmer's itch," but they can also infiltrate the skin and drill their way through the body.

Another danger, especially when swimming at a spot unguarded by rescuers, is drowning. During the past weekend alone 17 people drowned in Moscow, bringing the total death toll to 102 since the start of the bathing season in the capital, Interfax reported. Officials have said that the vast majority of victims went swimming after drinking alcohol.

A list of bathing sites approved by the State Health Inspectorate: Rublyovo (the western part of the city); Beloye Ozero (east); Serebryany Bor-2, Serebryany Bor-3, Khimki-2 (northwest); Vodnoye Dynamo, Akademicheskiye Prudy, Levoberezhye (north); Troparyovo (southwest); Gorodskoi Prud, Ozero Chornoye, Ozero Shkolnoye (Zelenograd district).