Drinking Water Contaminated in Borgarfjörður Eystri

Residents of Borgarfjörður Eystri, Northeast Iceland, have had to boil their drinking water for two weeks due to the discovery of coliform bacteria in both of their water sources, RÚV reports. The water supply has been drained and chlorinated.

East Iceland’s Public Health Authority discovered bacterial contamination in the supply during routine sampling in late September. The results came in on October 2 and residents were immediately told to boil all drinking water.

Soil subsidence a likely cause

The cause of the contamination is likely a pipe that was pulled out of a well in the spring above Brekkubær, providing a way for pollution to enter the water. “This has probably come about because of soil subsidence [sinking ground] in the wet land in that area,” stated Glúmur Björnsson, a geologist at utilities contractor HEF Veitur. Glúmur stated that staff has since chlorinated the wells and water tank and rinsed the system. “And we hope that will be enough for us to solve this.”

No illnesses reported

However, contamination was also detected in other wells, which means the dislocated pipe may not be the only cause. Authorities may install a UV water purifier in the system to kill germs. For the time being, residents must continue to boil drinking water. No illnesses have been reported in connection to the contaminated water.

Read More: A Wealth of Water

About 95% of Iceland’s drinking water is groundwater, most of it untreated. This groundwater is extracted from springs, wells, or boreholes. While Iceland’s drinking water is generally safe, waterborne disease outbreaks do occur. During the two decades between 1998 and 2017, there were 15 registered waterborne outbreaks in Iceland affecting 8,000 people and leading to over 500 registered illnesses. All of them occurred in small water supplies.

The Road to Borgarfjörður Eystri Now Paved

Borgarfjörður eystri east iceland

Residents of Borgarfjörður Eystri, a village in East Iceland, can now drive on paved roads all the way to Egilsstaðir.

The last section of paved road was completed earlier this month, a 15 km [9.3 mi] stretch near the town of Eiðar was finally paved.

Read more: Paving the Way to the Last Town in East Iceland

Héraðsverk, the contractor responsible for finishing the road project, reports that it was difficult going. The final section required significant blasting to clear the way. Now, however, a straight and wide road runs where there was previously a winding, gravel road with potholes.

The region has seen significant improvements in infrastructure in the last years, with a new road recently finished near Njarðvík. Residents also protested in 2018 by paving sections of road themselves to highlight inaction on behalf of the municipality.

Fragile Hope: How a programme to revive struggling villages in rural Iceland is rewiring collective mindset

 

With the recent improvements, all towns in the Fljótsdalshérað municipality are now connected via paved roads, a major milestone for this remote region of Iceland.

Eyþór Stefánsson, a resident of Borgarfjörður Eystri and representative in Múlaþing’s local council, is quoted as saying: “It’s amazing what’s happened in such a short time. We set off to fight to get sections of landslide-prone roads paved, but then this all started to happen incredibly fast.  We had hoped to improved the road from Eiðar but it turned out much better than we reckoned. They’ve taken away the blind rises, so now it’s a properly straight and wide road, practically a motorway.”

End of the Road: Paving the Way to the Last Town in East Iceland

The paving of a 15-kilometre [9.3-mile] section of road to the town of Borgarfjörður eystri, East Iceland, marks a turning point for transport in East Iceland. When it is completed, all of the towns in the Fljótsdalshérað region will be connected to paved roads.

The road in question runs north from Egilsstaðir through Úthérað. Héraðsverk took on the project for ISK 666 million [$5.28 million/€4.47 million] and constructions crews are getting started at the site now. “There’s been a lot of traffic, but it is declining now,” project manager Viðar Hauksson told Stöð 2. “So now we can go full steam.”

Residents of Borgarfjörður eystri campaigned for a paved road to the isolated town for years, even paving a section themselves in protest of the government’s inaction. The new paved section will for the most part follow the route of the current gravel road, Viðar says, though the new road will be wider and easier for locals and tourists to drive year-round.

Borgarfjörður eystri, population 98, features a café, hotel, fish factory, and puffin colony.

Read More: Fragile Hope

Golli. Puffins in Borgarfjörður Eystri

Puff-Inn Welcomes Seabirds for Five-Star Stay

A new hotel is opening by the small town of Borgarfjörður eystri, East Iceland, but if you’re reading this article, its lodgings are probably not available in your size. The Lundahótel, or Puff-Inn, is a project hatched by illustrators Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir and Rán Flygenring, offering luxury accommodations to Iceland’s most beloved birds. Iceland Review spoke to the artists as they were putting the finishing touches on the facilities, located at the farmstead Höfn, just east of the town.

The two artists opened a puffin shop last year at the same location, an answer to Iceland‘s many tourist shops filled with puffin-themed tchotchkes. “We made all sorts of puffin-related merchandise that was not for sale and were thinking a lot about the relationship between puffins, people, and puffin stores,” Rán told Iceland Review over the phone. “Opening a hotel is a logical continuation of that.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQ9i1K4gatN/

“The puffin is the symbol of tourism in Iceland but it’s in danger,” Elín says, explaining that human-caused global warming is pushing the bird’s food source north and the puffins are following. “A hotel would be a good way to provide them with refuge.” Early birds can dine on the hotel’s breakfast buffet, complete with sardines and herring (humans are also welcome), and guests will enjoy all the usual offerings of luxury lodgings: “Bathrobes and postcards.”

The Puff-Inn is located by the town harbour across the road from a puffin colony, and the artists admit their new facilities are more of a “staycation” for the birds. Their feathered neighbours are nevertheless are showing interest in the hotel on their doorstep, say the two illustrators, as are the local townsfolk. While there are currently no rooms available for human guests, Rán says they’re welcome to make a booking for a friend of the puffin persuasion.

Rather than the traditional rooms, the Puff-Inn offers burrows to its guests. “We plan to offer burrows of various sizes so birds of all kinds can come and stay,” Elín adds. “All birds are facing difficult circumstances due to human causes, so we hope they all stop by for a visit.”

Interested people and avians can follow the hotel on Instagram.

East Iceland Votes in New “Home Councils” Next Week

East Iceland residents go to the polls next week to vote in the first government of a newly-merged municipality. Residents of Borgarfjarðarhreppur, Fljótsdalshérað, Seyðisfjörður, and Djúpavogshreppur voted last October to merge their municipalities under a single government. Each of the four localities will also elect a so-called “home council,” representing a brand-new form of local government in Iceland.

The new municipality, which is yet to be named, will be the largest in Iceland, at over 11,000 square kilometres (4,250 square miles) and will contain around 5,000 residents. Five parties are running for election to the new government: Austurlistinn, the Progressive Party, the Centre Party, the Independence Party, and the Left-Green Movement. In addition to the municipal council, each of the four localities will also have a three-person home council, which will serve as a link between the municipal government and the locality’s residents. The concept is built on experimental provisions on governance in 2011 legislation concerning local government. This will be the first time the provision is applied.

Read More: Municipal Mergers in Iceland

When they show up to the polls, East Iceland residents will not only be voting on council members but also nominating residents to their own home council. Everyone who holds the right to vote is eligible to sit on a home council, and to nominate someone, voters simply write down their name and address on the ballot. This means that interested parties do not necessarily need to campaign publicly to win a seat on their home council. Those who would like to do so, however, are able to register online.

Two out of three members of each home council will be drawn from the locality, while the third member will be a sitting municipal councillor. Home councils will hold a significant amount of authority within each locality. They will oversee detailed land-use plans, the granting of licenses, nature conservation, and cultural events in their area.

Illustrators Open a New Kind of Puffin Shop in East Iceland

Illustrators Rán Flygenring and Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir and their puffins

So-called ‘puffin shops’ in downtown Reykjavík have long been synonymous with cheesy tchotchke and concessions made to the tourism market, but two Icelandic illustrators are now giving the concept a makeover.  Rán Flygenring and Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir opened Nýlunda this week, a puffin-themed popup in the East Iceland village of Borgarfjörður eystri selling nothing but a good vantage point to watch the birds in real life.

Nýlunda—which means ‘novelty’ in Icelandic and is also a play on the words ‘nýr´(new) and ‘lundi’ (puffin)—is temporarily operating from Borgarfjörður eystri’s birdwatching house.

“The puffin, in its Viking hat, has become the face of tourism,” remarked Rán in a recent radio interview. “[The phrase] puffin shop has almost become an expletive. Which is why we thought there was an opportunity right now to have the space to investigate this phenomenon. To make a totally Icelandic puffin shop in the middle of a puffin nesting ground.”

While the more common puffin shops aim to sell souvenirs, Nýlunda is no slave to capitalism, as Elín Elísabet explained to Iceland Review. “We’re in the process of developing our products but the process is what’s important. During this process, we’re researching the puffin and trying to find ways to let the puffin be a puffin on its own terms, not swallowed whole by the market. We’re expanding the concept of a puffin store.”

The birdwatching house is only two meters wide—the distance, it might be emphasized, that people are supposed to keep from one another in this time of social distancing—which means that only a few people can visit in person at a time. Indeed, in-person visits aren’t actually encouraged: “Due to the virus,” reads the sign on the outside of the shop, “it is best visited on Instagram.”

 

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The puffins are staying in today. 🌧

A post shared by Nýlundabúðin (@nylundabudin) on

This will affect the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled later today. “It’s just going to be the two of us,” says Elín. “But everyone’s welcome to join us online.” The pair will be sharing their puffin research and adventures on Instagram until August 16th through photos, videos and live-streams from their bird-watching cabin in east Iceland.

Nýlunda will have its official opening at 5pm GMT, which can be watched on the Nýlundabúðin Instagram page.

Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir and Rán Flygenring in Borgarfjörður Eystri
Sebastian Ziegler

 

 

East Iceland Town Welcomes Newborns With Eiderdown Duvet

Icelandic down

Expectant parents in Borgarfjörður eystri will now receive an eiderdown duvet for their newborns, thanks to a joint initiative of eiderdown farmers Jóhanna Óladóttir and Ólafur Aðalsteinsson and Icelandic Down (Íslenskur dúnn), a local company. While Jóhanna and Ólafur provide the down, Icelandic Down provides the fabric and produces the final product, Austurfrétt reports. The town is expecting its first newborn in four years next month.

“This tradition has come to stay,” remarked Ragna Óskarsdóttir of Icelandic Down, adding that she hopes it will help increase the number of children in Borgarfjörður eystri. “The more children the better.” Like many small towns in Iceland’s countryside, Borgarfjörður eystri has seen its population shrink in recent decades, as younger Icelanders are drawn to bigger towns for work or other reasons. Ragna insists, however, that the town of 77 residents is a great place to raise a family. “They get a free duvet, preschool is free here, and free food in primary school. There is no better place to raise children.”

The first parents to receive a duvet through the initiative are Lindsay Lee and Árni Magnús Magnússon, who recently relocated to Borgarfjörður eystri and are expecting their first child in June. Theirs is the first baby to be born in the town in four years. They say the community has welcomed them with open arms. “I don’t think there’s a better place for a child to grow up than here, where an entire community is ready to welcome them,” stated Lindsay.

Around 90% of the world’s eiderdown comes from Iceland. The nearly weightless, highly insulating material is a natural by-product of the common eider duck, which plucks feathers from its own body during breeding season to line its nest. A typical duvet requires 400-600 grams (14-21 ounces) of eiderdown while a child’s duvet requires about 200 grams (7 ounces).