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41pc of water samples found lacking chlorine

June 21, 2013

KARACHI, June 20: Civic agencies assigned to keep the deadly Naegleria fowleri in check have found the chlorine level in water being supplied to the city staggeringly unsatisfactory in many neighbourhoods and are making arrangements to overcome the looming danger of the ‘brain-eating amoeba’ that has already claimed two lives this year, it emerged on Thursday.

The authorities had formed a focal group comprising representatives of the provincial and metropolitan health departments, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, public health engineering department etc after the first Naegleria-related death, of a teenager, was reported last month.

The focal group has been tasked to take samples of the city’s water, test it and keep chlorine at the ‘desired level’.

The same month Naegleria claimed another life at the time when that group had just started to work.

They had collected some 1,103 samples of water from various parts of the city of which they found 646 samples containing chlorine equal to or more than 0.25 parts per million – a minimum desired level of chlorination.

“The figure shows at least 58.57 per cent of the city is being supplied with satisfactorily chlorinated water,” said an official who belonged to the group.

The remaining 41.43pc samples of water had insufficient amount of chlorine. Some 38 samples showed no chlorination at all, while 419 had it at less than the desired level, said the official.

Sources said the focal group started sampling and testing on May 25 and the results of the 1,100 samples – collected till June 18 – were shared with Dawn.

“The results show we are still in danger of a Naegleria attack and there is enough work to do,” said a senior official.

Sources said the samples collected in more than three weeks belonged to “almost every” neighbourhood of the city except Lyari.

“Surprisingly, all samples we collected from Lyari showed the water was satisfactorily chlorinated. However, some part of each of the other 17 towns gave negative results,” said another official.

Moreover, to safeguard the villages on the fringes of the city – lying between the Hub Dam and the New Karachi pumping station – the provincial health authorities have got ‘powdered chlorine’.

Those villagers use non-chlorinated raw water coming from the dam, exposing the area to Naegleria fowleri.

Officials had told the Karachi commissioner at a meeting last week that people living in those villages had got water supply from a canal, which brought water from the Hub river to the New Karachi pumping station from where it was supplied to the city.

They had said they checked samples of water those villages were hooked to and found it raw with no chlorination.

Officials said since it was highly difficult to treat that water from the Hub source, over 25 kilometres from the New Karachi pumping station, and chlorination was difficult there, and suggested that assistance be sought from the World Health Organisation to resolve the issue.

Sources now said they had received some 25 drums of ‘powdered chlorine’ from the WHO, which would be used in the areas that fell within the Gadap and Songal union councils’ jurisdiction.

“The quantity of this stuff is enough for several months,” said an official.

Meanwhile, sources said the authorities had rechecked 13 of the 31 swimming pools in the city, which were found without proper chlorination.

“So far, none of those swimming pools have been closed and a decision to this effect will be taken soon,” said a senior official.