Saturday 6 June, 2020

Health Ministry issues advisory on drinking water safety amid concerns

Officials from the Ministry of Health and Wellness have issued a call for Jamaicans to be vigilant when receiving water from private companies.

The ministry sent out the warning amid reports that unscrupulous persons could be seeking to capitalise on the needs of Jamaicans in light of the pending drought conditions.

Amid those reports, there were suggestions that cesspool trucks may have been retrofitted to convey drinking water.

“The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to advise that as part of its regulatory responsibility, it continues to monitor the production and distribution of potable water intended for domestic and commercial consumption,” the ministry said in a release.

“Quality checks are carried out by public health inspectors across the island on a weekly basis. In the particular instance of retrofitted trucks noted in the media recently, the ministry is currently investigating the matter, and will advise the public of the outcome,” the release continued.

In the meantime, Director of Environmental Health at the ministry, Everton Baker, noted that water supplied to citizens and the business community should be from the National Water Commission (NWC) or a Ministry of Health and Wellness-approved source.

The release said the list of approved sources can be obtained from the respective parish health departments.

The ministry advised that it is important that consumers be vigilant when receiving potable water, in light of the prevailing drought conditions, as the demand for potable water increases.

“In addition to the work of the ministry, before water is received, consumers should observe whether or not the vehicle, including the water holding containers, hose and fittings, are clean. Consumers should also ensure that the water is not discoloured, and that there is no odour or foreign matter(s) in the water.

Commercial entities are advised, where possible, to do additional quality checks,” Baker cautioned.

If the quality of the water is in doubt, consumers are advised to treat the water by boiling or adding bleach. Water should be heated until it comes to a “rolling boil” (where large bubbles are continuously coming to the surface of the water), which should be maintained for one minute.

Consumers may also add household bleach - not bulk bleach - to treat drinking water.  The following guidelines should be observed in relation to the quantity of bleach to be applied to water:

Quantity of Bleach

(Two drops)

Quantity of Water

(One quart)

Quantity of Bleach

(Six to eight drops)

Quantity of Water

(One gallon)

Quantity of Bleach

(Half teaspoon)

Quantity of Water

(Five gallons)

After the bleach is added to the water as advised, stir and allow to stand for 30 minutes before consuming.

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