“I apologize that we did not have a crisis response manual for every case, we did not seek advice from experts and we did not have a response process in place,” Park said during the press conference.
Incheon Metropolitan City will monitor the water quality in major pipes; discharge tap water; make holes in supply pipes to remove contaminants from the water; and carry out a large-scale cleaning operation on sewage and drainage facilities in the coming days, Park said.
The measures come 18 days after reddish tap water was first reported on May 30 in western Incheon and on Yeongjong Island, affecting some 10,000 households as well as 150 schools in the area. Schools had to shut down their kitchens, and cafes and restaurants in affected areas had to close.
However, the measures appear not to have eased concerns, with many Incheon residents slamming the city for failing to respond to the situation and belatedly announcing measures.
The city drew flak after it assured residents that the water was safe based on scientific inspection of the water quality, even though Incheon residents continued to complain about the reddish water. Some 2,000 residents held a rally in the city on Sunday afternoon, demanding the municipality solve the problem.
The water quality will see an improvement by this week and return to a normal level around the end of this month, Park said, citing analysis by a group of experts.
In the meantime, the city will exempt residents who were affected by the water problem from bills for water usage, according to the municipality.
It will also provide them with financial support for the cleaning of water tanks at residential complexes, receiving treatment at hospitals and purchasing bottled water. The city will also offer special loans to help stabilize the business of small merchants hit by the contaminated water problem.
The cause of the reddish tap water remains unknown, but the city believes the problem occurred in the process of switching tap water supply systems -- a procedure taken to prevent a suspension in water supply.
A government inspection team -- comprising 18 people from the Environment Ministry, Korea Water Resources Development Corp. and academia -- has been conducting an inspection to find out the cause of the reddish water since June 7. Results were to be released Tuesday.
Park has vowed to establish a masterplan to innovate the water system and those in charge of overseeing it, with a focus on replacing aged water pipes.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)