Discoloured city water blamed on alum shortage By Stacey Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
December 4, 2001

`...this situation is unacceptable and it should not occur in the future' - Water Minister, Mr. Shaik Baksh

DISCOLOURED water is flowing through taps in several city wards because the Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commissioners (GS&WC) has run out of aluminum sulphate or alum, officials reported yesterday.

Minister of Water and Housing, Mr. Shaik Baksh told reporters at his ministry there has been a delay in the shipment from the Industrial Chemical Company in Jamaica, after the stocks at GS&WC were depleted and an order was placed on October 25.

"It was expected to arrive here on November 21st, but...the shipping line has been experiencing difficulties in arranging for the shipment of alum to Georgetown and this has caused the delay", he said.

He said 100,000 tonnes of alum were ordered for the GS&WC and he was given the assurance that there was enough in store until the end of the year.

But because of a request from Linden, 50,000 tonnes were sent for the water system there, he reported.

Baksh added that the bauxite mining town receives most of its water supply from the Demerara River and it has to be treated.

GS&WC also supplied the Guyana Water Authority (GUYWA) with 4.5 tonnes of alum for the Bartica water supply system which is also mainly surface water.

The minister assured that efforts are being made to ensure that the alum arrives here this week.

"The latest information we have from the shipping line is that the alum is going to arrive on Friday and we will move expeditiously (to ensure) that the bright colour of the water is restored."

"I am concerned as minister at what is happening and there is need...and I impress upon the GS&WC (that) there is need for better planning in terms of the ordering and scheduling of supplies of alum because this situation is unacceptable and it should not occur in the future", he declared.

General Manager of the GS&WC, Mr Gladstone Fausett, who was also at the news briefing, said stocks depleted 10 days ago and the agency resorted to improving the quality of water supplied from the Shelter Belt by blending it with the surface water from the Lama Canal after the water is treated.

He said four chemicals are used in the water treatment process. Alum is the major one used to induce the formulation process which removes the dark colour from the water, he explained.

Fausett pointed out that the water from the Lama Canal became darker than usual and "tended to defeat the blending".

The areas affected by the discoloured water are Alberttown, Queenstown, Bourda, Stabroek, Lacytown, Wortmanville, Werk-en-Rust, Robbstown, Newtown, Bel Air, Newtown and Newtown Kitty.

Charlestown and Albouystown are partly affected since part of their supply comes from Central Ruimveldt, Fausett said.

He said the other areas in the city are supplied by well water.

The General Manager stated that the water is purified as usual. It is chlorinated to ensure it is free of bacteria and tested every day to ensure no form of bacteria gets into the distribution system.

Asked how this problem arose, he indicated that GS&WC would normally assist other agencies when these are out of alum.

"And one contributory factor in allowing this to happen is that there is a local supplier who (we) will always apply to, if we think we are likely to run into problems", he said.

But on this occasion when the local supplier was approached he was out of stock, he explained.

He said it is not normal that the supplier is out of stock and is always there as a backup whenever there is a delay in the arrival of alum from overseas.