General News of Monday, 16 May 2016
A research conducted by the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has established that Ghana’s water treatment systems are incapable of removing algae toxins.
Briefing the Daily Graphic on the report, the Director of the institute, Dr. Joseph Addo Ampofo explained that Ghana had the conventional type of water treatment system that was unable to remove the algae toxins.
He said most of the sources of fresh water drawn to the treatment plants were high in algae growth.
He, therefore, called for an immediate review of the country’s water purification systems to ensure that the toxins were removed, adding that algae were harmful to human health.
Dr. Ampofo said the algae infestation was the result of human activities such as illegal mining (galamsey), farming along river banks and bathing in the rivers.
He urged all stakeholders, including the Water Resources Commission and the public, to do their part in protecting water sources from algae growth. He said the less the algae growth, the less the toxins to be removed.
He said although the current water purification mechanism used by the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) met World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, the guidelines were accepted at a time that Ghana did not have problems with algae growth in water sources.
He explained that the GWCL only tested the treated water for bacteria, not toxins from algae, and that was why the company said its water was potable.
“If you look at the water in the Weija Dam, for instance, gradually the water is increasing in blue-green algae. With such water, if you want to treat it for drinking, you must also take into consideration the removal of the algae because algae toxins can cause kidney, liver, nervous system and heart problems.
“Because we do not have that technology for our water treatment now, it means if there is a lot of algae in the water from the treatment point, consumers will be drinking these toxins and that is the danger we are facing now,” he said.
Dr. Ampofo further revealed that the use of chlorine and alum in the current water treatment system only succeeded in destroying bacteria that might be present in the water source, but not the toxins produced by algae.
“We did the research before 2010 and at that time the level of algae in Ghana’s main water sources had not come up to dangerous levels, but now that we have a lot of waste being dumped into water bodies, we need to find out the level, because by now it has exceeded the acceptable level of algae toxins in drinking water,” he said.
He attributed the increase in cancer cases among the youth to the situation.
He said the WRI had informed the GWCL about the need to review the current water treatment process, although that was yet to be done.
He recommended the use of very fine filters by the GWCL to remove harmful algae toxins if the means of procuring appropriate chemicals were not available.
Ghana Water Company
In response, the Communications Director of the GWCL, Mr. Stanley Martey, challenged the report.
According to him, the research was outdated because it was conducted in 2008, noting that the situation, if it was actually so at the time the report was made, had possibly changed because the various treatment plants had undergone technical improvement since 2008.
He expressed worry over the refusal of the CSIR to furnish the company with a copy of the report unless the GWCL paid for it.
He reiterated the fact that the water produced by the GWCL nationwide was potable, adding that routine checks were done daily on an hourly basis to ensure that the public was served with potable water.
Mr. Martey said the GWCL was ready to implement the recommendations in the said report after the company had reviewed it to determine the authenticity of the findings.