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Sep 5, 2019

Ministry of Health and BWS work on water safety plan

The Ministry of Health and the Belize Water Services are taking a closer look at one of the biggest water systems in the country to ensure that consumers have access to safe potable water and that it remains that way for years to come. The work comes under a project lead by the Caribbean Public Health Agency. Representatives are assisting the Ministry of Health and B.W.S. with analyzing and designing a water safety plan for one supply system. This entails looking at the responsibilities of key stakeholders and not just those of the water utility company or the Ministry of Health. Principal Public Health Inspector, John Bodden says that there are quite a few challenges to look at.


John Bodden, Public Health Inspector

John Bodden

“What we are doing, we are working with BWs which is the recipient of this project. Their system actually covers the Northern highway from the Double Run plant and it goes to Belize City and form Belize City up to 8 Mie and Hattieville. CARPHA extended that project to us the Caribbean Public Health Agency and when we looked at it, there is that aspect of looking at risk assessment and management of the water system to ensure that the water is safe. That had a gap on it so we decided to embark on that project that was estende4d to us. While we are producing very good quality water, some of the issues that are affecting the quality of the water number one is climate change. And that can be seen by the impact we are having in Orange Walk currently. I think we are very fortunate that this did not happen on the Belize River. So if that did occur then this system that we are looking at right now in the pilot project, covers more than one third of the country’s population. SO it would have been a lot of people that would have been out of drinking water. So we have also the issue with farmers who are using a lot of pesticides and they are clearing the banks and so we are having run offs into the water. We have people who are doing direct deposits of waste from humans into the river and we also have some alteration of the environments which are contributing to the contamination of drinking water sources. And primarily some of the sources that we are using in this country are surface water and those of some of the most high risk sources to be using. And what we do need to do it ensure that we look at what are the risks associated with those and how we can manage it to make sure that the water remains safe for our processing and  eventually consumption. I think this is where the WSP comes in because I look at collaboration between entities. While public health is mandated to make sure that what is safe. We need to look at where the other sectors need to contribute.”


David Pascacio

David Pascacio, Operations Manager, BWS

“A water safety plan for us started many years ago but we don’t hold all the…we don’t control all the factors that should be involved in a water safety plan. When we abstract water from the Belize River per say. We are only abstracting it from that point that the water treatment plant in Sandhill. But what happens upstream from that could affect the raw water when it reaches us. So the Water Safety Plan encompass all of that. We have 3 surface water treatment plants. Namely: Belize City, Dangriga and Belmopan. Those in last year, the abstraction volume, the demand on those sources was 2.6 billion gallons. And then we have 28 well fields that is some 2.2. billion gallons of water that we get from those wells. With the difference being from reverse osmosis plants which is also well water but well water from safe clean well water.”


Shermaine Clauzel of CARPHA says the work entails looking at the supply system where the water is abstracted, conditions of the surrounding environment, probable hazards and developments to ensure that consumers get the best quality water that fits health regulations. Discussions today engaged members of the private sector, B.W.S., and government regulators.


Shermaine Clauze

Shermaine Clauzel,  CARPHA

“Two weeks ago we were here and we did have a walkthrough of where water is abstracted. Double Run, we looked at the water treatment process, so we have gathered some information that is now being represented at this meeting to the wide group. So, together we are going to identify where within that system there may be opportunity for hazards. And together we will work out what the hazards are, how significant they are, the likelihood of them occurring and what is currently in place to control these hazards and if it not sufficient, what we can do differently. And that is going to form the basis of the plan. So going forward we would have gone through a very extensive process to identify all the vulnerabilities and catalogue specifically down to cost. How these can be addressed. So this is something that is going to be a living document, it has to be updated once there is any changes to any system and it becomes a way of ensuring that you have short term, medium term and long term improvement plans. What I can tell you is that you do have a system that might be considered a little more rigorous than in some of the other countries in the region. So we are encouraged by that, we are also very aware that you are currently going through a drought. And that logically will spark some concerns but there are other factors at play that supports the approaches that are being taken right now. We just want to ensure that there are in concept with good output, good quality water. Both for now and for if this continues because you know that climate change forecast shows that there will be longer dry spells and shorter periods of intense rainfall that can lead to flooding. So, with that in mind we are looking at all of these factors and seeing how we can plan for those. Well what happens with water safety planning is that it has to be done for a system. So we are looking at one system and abstraction point, treatment, storage and distribution. So that is one close system where we can be follow all the hazards within a closed contained environment and be able to chart what the issues are there. What we would like to do after that is roll that out and replicate other systems.”


Bodden says once completed, the ministry will have to ensure it remains engaged with stakeholders. He adds that they should also be expanding the work to other systems such those in rural areas and within the private sector in the country. 


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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