Government requests report on lead contaminated water

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 17, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government has requested a report amid concerns that lead contaminated water from a landfill has been entering a water treatment plant owned by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) since 2014.

“As a Cabinet, we have asked for a report…an urgent report on this,” Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young told reporters.

But WASA has issued a statement informing consumers that the water is safe to drink.

“The Authority wishes to assure customers and the general public that water it produces meets and exceeds guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for potable or drinking water quality,” it said in a statement.

Young, speaking at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday, said that the government would not be issuing any premature directives to the population regarding water consumption, until it knows the facts.

“We don’t want to overreact or under react,” he said, adding that to date, there has been no evidence of any lead contamination of the country’s potable water supply.
Officials of the Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL) told a Public Accounts Enterprises Committee (PAEC) of Parliament earlier this week that lead contaminated water from the Guanapo Landfill, east of here, had entered WASA’s Caroni Water Treatment Plant since 2014.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who was also at the news conference, described the disclosure by SWMCOL as, “historical information”, adding “”the report has to come carefully but it’s much more than Ministry of Health and (Ministry of) Public Utilities”.

Al Rawi said this problem cannot be solved simply by closing the Guanapo Landfill or any other landfill, while Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said, “when you have an issue of potential lead poisoning, I don’t think you have a line minister. All ministers should be concerned because this issue cuts across everything.”

In its statement defending the water situation, WASA listed mechanisms for treating water to WHO standards.

“Lead is a heavy metal contaminant which is easily removed from water during WASA’s coagulation/flocculation and sedimentation processes. In addition, there is disinfection to eliminate dangerous pathogens,” the release noted.

WASA said that it also undertakes regular water quality tests at the Plant’s on-site laboratory in keeping with WHO Guidelines.
It said that in recent years the Water Resources Agency (WRA), SWMCOL and the University of the West Indies (UWI) have worked together to improve water quality in the Guanapo River.

“This work includes reducing the volume of ‘leachate’ (pollution run-off) from the Guanapo landfill entering the river, through measures such as terracing the landfill, construction of three ponds within the landfill to control run-off, pumping the ponds and the removal of the ‘leachate’, and construction of an artificial wetland to assist with bio treatment of the ‘leachate’. “

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