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Monday, June 13, 2011

DRINKING WATER SOURCES IN CHENNAI-E.COLI CONTAMINATION

The very mention of E.coli has become scary in the light of the European food poisoning episode claiming many innocent lives besides causing extensive kidney damage to many consumers. Here is a typical example of an innocuous bug assuming monstrous proposition for which man has to bear the responsibility. Knowing pretty well for years that some strains of E.coli are becoming dangerous and resistant to many antibiotics, precious little has been done to evolve appropriate measures that could pre-empt any serious food poisoning by these versions. That contaminated water used for processing was the source of contamination does not evoke any surprise because of large quantity of water required for the food industry and how this bug got into the bean sprouts which cause the havoc in Europe is still a mystery considering that under HACCP regime, water quality is definitely a critical point requiring focused attention. Recent news that the drinking water supply source in Chennai contained E.coli was received with some concern though the authorities claim that after treatment before delivery the water is safe for consumption.

The TNPCB has been monitoring the water quality under the Central Pollution Control Board's Monitoring of International Aquatic Resources System programme from February this year. The samples are taken every month and tested at the TNPCB's laboratories for various parameters, including the level of pH, nitrate, chloride, total hardness, calcium hardness, sulphate and magnesium. Tests by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board show the presence of coliform bacteria in samples of untreated water drawn from Porur, Red Hills, Poondi and Veeranam waterbodies, which serve as sources of supply to the city. "Coliform contamination in the surface water is a common phenomenon due to unhygienic anthropogenic activities before chlorination," sources in the board said. Chennai Metrowater supplies a total of 710 million litres a day to the city, of which 695 mld is through pipes. Engineers of the Quality Monitoring Wing of Metrowater said: "Water is supplied only after treatment and the treated water does not have any coliforms. It is tested before being supplied to the residents." Sources in the Water Resources Department, said that no effluent or sewage disposal is allowed in these waterbodies.Residents of Red Hills said the tank's bund was used as an open toilet. "There are no security personnel to guard the entire perimeter. There are many residential areas surrounding the tank and people use the water for purposes other than drinking," a resident said.

The mute question is how can there be negligence on the part of the water supply agency to ensure that the source is protected from contamination due to uncontrolled use of the water bodies for waste dumping and defecation, both containing high levels of E.coli, some of which could be virulent. Though chlorination is routinely done at the water processing facilities, there cannot be iron-clad guarantee that 100% disinfection is achieved, especially if organic load is high in such water sources. The strain on the processing facilities will increase many fold if the incoming water has high BOD or if it has come into contact with fecal matters. A high degree of risk is involved if water sources are not well protected from dangerous human activities near them.
V.H.POTTY
http://vhpotty.blogspot.com/
http://foodtechupdates.blogspot.com

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