Tap water quality depends on variety of factors
Govt Analyst conducting detailed survey By Matt Falloon
Stabroek News
December 1, 2001

With feelings rising among the public that the water from the taps in Georgetown is not safe to drink, Stabroek News decided to conduct tests on local sources to verify the quality of the water.

Samples were taken from Stabroek News yard and the Guyana Chronicle yard on the morning of November 11 and sent to the Eureka Lab on Thomas Street, Cummingsburg, and the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (FDD) in Kingston.

Great news for the staff of these two newspapers! The water samples came back all clear. Total coliform and faecal coliform counts were within the safe boundaries and both labs concluded: "The samples are both microbiologically satisfactory for potable usage", (FDD); Eureka described the quality of both samples as "good".

However, residents of Georgetown, and indeed staffers at Stabroek and Chronicle, hold your glasses!

According to the Deputy Director of the FDD, Lee De Santos, the tests conducted could not be considered conclusive because water quality could vary depending on the time of day and the location in the city.

"There are a number of factors involved," he said in a telephone interview, "before you can make a general statement about the water quality in the city."

De Santos observed that bacteria could enter the water network wherever there was a break in the pipes and garbage and other undesirable matter could come into contact with the water supply.

He recommended taking samples from a number of different points across the city at varying times of day to glean a more realistic overview of water quality.

Currently, the FDD is compiling results from tests completed this year, surveying the water quality across the capital. According to De Santos, the results will be made public by the end of the year.

Until then, it appears that depending on where you live, what kind of pipes you have and when you need it, water may or may not be safe to use. Consequently, as the Guyana Review has explored recently, the public is buying bottled water from a number of increasing producers to be on the safe side.

De Santos remarked that water quality could also vary because much of the water sourced for use is drawn from treated water reserves and well water. Depending on the quality of construction, the depth of the well and the amount of seepage, the quality of the water could be adversely affected.

From Bourda to Festival City, what is coming through your tap and into your glass or your cooking pot?

Despite requests for assistance from the Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commissioners (GS&WC) and the FDD to ensure correct sampling procedures, no assistance was agreed to. Furthermore, GS&WC denied access to the Shelter Belt for sample collecting. Several attempts were made to garner comments from the GS&WC on the water quality issue but these efforts proved futile.