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Filtration plants live in name

September 24, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Sept 23: Contrary to civic authority’s tall claims about its elaborate measures to supply clean drinking water through filtration plants, the level of contamination is high, Dawn learnt through sources in Capital Development Authority (CDA).

According to official sources in CDA the five-level water purifying units in each of the 37 filtration plants, installed across the capital city have outlived their utility.

Ideally the treated water from tube wells, Simli dam and head works passes through a sand filter medium — activating carbon unit 5 micron and 1 micron cartage — and then finally under a ultra-violet (UV) lamp (installed in filtration plants) which kills the remaining germs, before consumers can drink it out of the taps. But that is only under ideal conditions — when everything is working hundred per cent.

“But all the five units of disinfection are so worn out and have outlived their utility that treated water becomes contaminated, when it passes through the filtration system and is unsafe for human consumption,” said an official source in CDA.

According to another official, operations and maintenance of all 37 filtration plants had been out sourced to a private contractor.

And according to CDA’s environment wing, substandard filtration parts had been installed and the UV lamps were particularly of poor quality with lesser operational life.“There have been no regular checks or water testing conducted in a long time,” said the CDA official.

According to the documents available with Dawn, water quality tests conducted on filtration plants in August 2010 — under directions from then Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati — showed that the contractor had fabricated ten reports out of 15.

The fake reports were for those samples which were declared unsafe by the Pakistan Council of Research for Water Resources (PCRWR) in Islamabad.

According to the document: “The contractor changed some or all information pertaining to the date of analysis, date of issuance, and tests results on the fabricated reports.”

So much so that the signatory officers on some of the fabricated reports were also different, the document said.

According to another page available with Dawn, the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on December 2010 had directed CDA to furnish a report on the issue and demanded measures being taken to ensure supply of safe and clean drinking water to the people of the twin cities.

And another notice issued by Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) in March 2011, identified 5 out of the 27 operational plants, with physiochemical and bacteriological contents as ‘highly risky to drink from’.

“But no proper action has been taken since over a year,” said the source in CDA, adding that the contract of the private operator was still intact despite complaints and it should have been cancelled.

Member Engineering CDA, Syed Abrar Hussain Shah said the system was not perfect but not as bad either.

“We are not ruling out some human errors. But the filtration plants are maintained on regular basis every month. The most complaints we have had in the filtration plants is the problem of turbidity/muddy with foreign particles,” said Abrar Shah explaining how water from filtration plants was tested by CDA’s water testing lab as well as PCRWR.

For further inquiries, the Member directed questions to one of his deputy directors who took charge of the office in February 2012, who claimed that filtration plants had been upgraded recently in June this year.

“Changing parts is a lengthy process and it is done one at a time. The filtration plants are monitored constantly and a plant is closed whenever there are complaints,” the new deputy director CDA, Ikhlaq Hussain said.

Regarding the issue of out sourcing, the operations and maintenance of the filtration plants, he said that the present operator’s contract was expiring at the end of September and a fresh tender would be floated.