I am an environmental engineer working in the design of water and wastewater treatment plants for the last 5 years in US. I would like to present some facts to you about the so called “safe to drink” water we get in our homes in Kerala.
So when we think about a water treatment plant what comes to our mind? The process like coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, using sand and disinfection with chlorine. Over 85% of drinking water treatment plants follow these conventional treatment processes.
Most of the treatment plants in US are moving away from conventional treatment process. Research has found that many organic contaminants (which include most of the pesticides) cannot be treated using conventional treatment process.
US Environmental Protection Agency in March 2001 published this report. The abstract of it reads like this
“A group of chemicals, known as endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs), has been identified as having the potential to cause adverse health effects in humans and wildlife. Among this group DDT, PCBs, endosulfan, methoxychlor, diethylphthalate, diethylhexylphthalate, and bisphenol A may occur in drinking water. The various components of the drinking water treatment process have been evaluated and granular activated carbon has been identified as the method to be used for the removal of EDCs from drinking water. This document presents treatment processes for large municipalities and small communities to remove EDCs from drinking water.”
So did you read DDT and endosulfan – two compounds that we use widely as pesticides and pet subject of our CM. How many water treatment plants have granular activated carbon treatment plants in Kerala? I don’t know of any. So what that means? You may be drinking water containing DDT and endosulfan. Our elected representatives are doing nothing to improve the drinking water quality.
We think if we boil the water we are safe. Yes boiling water removes virus/bacteria but most pesticides/organic contaminants which are carcinogenic persist. If virus/bacteria are present you get sick immediately. If carcinogenic substances are present, over a period of time you get cancer. Now you know, who is the main culprit for increasing the cancer rate in our community?
Another wrong belief- adding more chlorine to water is good. Yes it is good in killing the microbes but if we add chlorine to water not properly treated it produces what is called “disinfection byproducts” which are highly carcinogenic. These compounds are regulated in US and most of the water treatment plants are moving away from using chlorine as a primary disinfectant. All water treatment plants in US have to monitor for disinfection byproducts daily. Does anyone sitting in Kerala Water Authority have any knowledge about disinfection by product formation potential of chlorine? I don’t know. It is time for them to know this, as they are playing with the lives of millions of people.
There is a treatment plant near my house in Trivandrum. This treatment plant is in a place called Vandithadam. What they do is, pump water from the Vellayani Lake and pass it through a sand filter, add excess chlorine and sent it to the distribution system. Last time when I came back from India I took a water sample and brought it to my lab. I found the disinfection by product almost 50 times that is permissible in US. Yes, being an Environmental Engineer, I know the water my parents and brother drink, is not safe, but do we have any other alternative?
I wish the political parties instead of taking law into their own hand and destroying public/private property do something to provide safe drinking water to the people.
IT IS HIGH TIME FOR KERALA GOVERTMENT TO SET ITS PRIORITIES RIGHT