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No immediate way out of water contamination: BMC

Civic officials, both current and retired, are perplexed at how samples tested directly at the outlets of the reservoirs have shown high levels of contamination, immediately after being treated to a booster dose of chlorine to purify the water. Kunal Purohit reports.

mumbai Updated: Sep 10, 2011 01:17 IST
Kunal Purohit

Civic officials, both current and retired, are perplexed at how samples tested directly at the outlets of the reservoirs have shown high levels of contamination, immediately after being treated to a booster dose of chlorine to purify the water.

Insiders say there is virtually no immediate way out, since the results of the tests are available only 48 hours after the samples are collected. What this means is that by the time the reports are out, the water has reached your tap and is consumed.

Water samples from three reservoirs tested in July — Verawali hill reservoir III and two reservoirs at Pali Hill — show “infinite” presence of E.coli bacteria. Out of 24 samples of 100 ml each found contaminated across the three reservoirs, nine were found to have an “infinite” presence of the E.coli bacteria. One sample had 16 E.coli bacteria bodies, while the rest had 9.2. Ideally, the samples should show “zero” presence of E.coli.

The maximum contamination was found at the Verawali Hill reservoir III, where a total of 11 samples were found contaminated.

Officials from the hydraulic engineer’s office as well as the health department collect water samples every day, and test them to check contamination level. The tests are conducted at the municipal laboratory in Dadar, and the reports are available only after three to four days.

Senior civic officials said that this was a big area of concern. “Currently, we have no mechanism to check the contamination in water immediately. When we get the reports, we order another bunch of sampling, to ascertain whether the contamination still exists. However, such tests are redundant because contaminated water seldom lasts for as long as four days,” he added.

Officials were unable to explain how contaminated water was detected at the reservoir itself. Ramesh Bambale, the civic body’s hydraulic engineer, said that it was unheard of. “We generally never have a case of contamination detected at the reservoir itself, because water is constantly pumped with chlorine.”

Retired deputy municipal commissioner Prakash Sanglikar blamed the civic infrastructure for the fiasco. “There has been no constructive action on checking water supply problems like contamination for years. I am not surprised that such results are now out in the open.”

Activists living in the localities that received contaminated water are aghast. Aftab Siddiqui, chairperson, 33rd road Khar ALM said, “Even though our ward has very active citizens, such high levels of contamination exist. I dread to think of areas where there is absolutely no check on civic affairs, by citizens.”

Ramesh Pai, trustee-secretary, Mahakali Road ALM in Andheri said, “Even after our water leaves the reservoir, there are so many illegal connections from the pipelines that it makes the water reaching our taps very vulnerable to contamination.”