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Mar 22, 2018

On World Water Day, How Safe Is Our Water?

Today is World Water Day, and it’s good time to think about our abundance of access to water – especially clean safe drinking water. Tonight in Healthy Living, we find out more about the work that goes into ensuring that we have safe water throughout our country.

 

Marleni Cuellar

“Over half the households in this country rely on purified water as their main drinking water source. At last count there were over eighty companies producing purified water for the market. But how safe are these waters? And who ensures that it is? That’s what happens here, at the National Drinking water Quality Laboratory, where Ministry of Health Water Analysts ensure that the water on the market is safe for consumption.”

 

Anthony Flowers has been working with the Ministry of Health for the past twenty-five years. He says when he first started there was only one purified water company in the country. Now, the small lab tests up to four thousand five hundred samples of water a year.

 

Anthony Flowers

Anthony Flowers, Water Analyst, Ministry of Health

“Our main mission with this lab is to look at the quality of drinking water that the people of Belize have access to.  We do actual testing here to see whether the water is in compliance with the World Health organization guidelines for drinking water.”

 

Rural water systems are tested quarterly while the tap and bottled water are tested each month. These samples are collected by regional inspectors like Lisa Tillett.

 

Lisa Tillett

Lisa Tillett, Senior Public Health Inspector, Central Health Region.

“In Belize district what the health inspector does each month. They collect samples of water from Belize City, Belize district, Caye Caulker and San Pedro. The purpose is that to ensure that one, BWS is complying with what they say they are selling to the people – if they are providing certain quality of water and we’re paying for it. We must ensure it is happening properly and two, to prevent illness.  The fact that once there is something happen we get on it as quick as possible so that you the public can know that they are drinking safe water. If we should go to a certain location and then there’s something 100% the way it should be then we will go in there along with the water analysis and we would give recommendations and work with the owner that company until we bring back to the standards. While that is happening that operation will have to cease so the public won’t get that kind of water until we are one hundred percent sure.”

 

Anthony Flowers

“The water from Belize Water Systems is generally safe. We do not find a lot of problems with the bacteriological quality from BWS. We do have sometimes problems that we would find in the purified water similarly with the rural water systems as well we would find some problems.”

 

The safest drinking water would be that of the pipe. Tillett explains why:

 

Lisa Tillett

“The pipe water is the safest reason being it has a barrier. It has the chlorine that will – If something would go into the water the chlorine would be able to fight it off. Unlike the purified water you drinking what we call pure water so anything that falls in there. There is no chemical there is nothing that can fight off whatever pathogen is in that water.”

 

The purified water industry is safe, and Flowers says many companies are consistent with proper standards. One of the recent challenges, though, is the water refilling stations. The problem is not how safe the water produced is it’s in the sanitation of the bottle.

 

Anthony Flowers

“The standard under which they are operating they would need to have some basic things in place, for example the washing and sanitizing of those bottles. They need to have a better system to do that, presently that is not in place for the majority of the refilling operations. What they actually do rinse to wash out your bottle is not adequate enough. So need to address that aspect of their operations. They also rely on the customer to bring in a clean bottle. We need to look at that that needs to be changed.”

 

And the work has commenced. The Ministry Health is in the process of finalizing a national water policy to manage the industry properly.

 

Anthony Flowers

“The policy is in its draft stage. We are consulting with the water sector. The policy is to set the framework or the basis – the foundation – under which we will now develop guidelines or regulations, sorry, that will govern the entire water industry in Belize.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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