Body found in Lamaha Canal
Stabroek News
August 20, 2002

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Guyana Water, Health Ministry allays concerns over city’s water

Concerns over the safety of the city’s water supply following discovery of the body in the Lamaha Canal, whom it was alleged was HIV positive, have been allayed.

Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference at the Shelter Belt yesterday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Rudolph Cummings, and senior officials of the Guyana Water Inc assured citizens that all was well.

According to Dr Cummings, survival of any antibodies associated with HIV depended on certain conditions. He said that nowhere in the voluminous amount of literature on the subject did it say that contact with a large body of water would aid its transmission. However, he said that this did not stop citizens from taking their own personal precautions; the use of bleach or hydrochloride substances are common means of killing any micro-organisms which may be present.

Water Engineer responsible for Treatment, David Dewar, while confirming that the body was recovered, disclosed that the treatment process was a continuous one and the agency had adequate stocks of chemicals. Regular checks of the chlorine level of both the finished and raw water were done to ensure that it met required standards, Dewar said.

Alum and lime were also added to aid in its purification and periodic bacteriological tests undertaken to ensure conformity.

Manager, Customer Services and Consumer Relations, Gladstone Faucett, told reporters that surface water from the canal was treated with chlorine to eradicate risks of harmful bacteria.

Rigorous testing was also carried out to ensure that the water delivered to the public was of the highest quality.

An appeal was also launched for persons to desist from performing certain tasks including laundry, bathing and other unmentionables in and around the water source.

According to Dewar, customers residing near the canal commonly called the `blacker’ have made the observation that some persons’ daily routine included baths in the canal.

All these acts led to water contamination, Dewar noted, but observed that most of the contaminants would disappear in a matter of hours into microbiological residue, incapable of causing any harm.

Pressed on measures to secure the integrity of the water supply, Faucett said that ten million gallons of water were produced by the facility daily and all necessary precautions were taken to guarantee purity. He said that if anything was found to be wrong at the first stage of treatment (when the colour is taken off) then measures would be taken to rectify the situation.

Dewar later reiterated that this was not the first case of a body being fished out of the water source, and these included dead animals. But he stressed that chlorine took care of any such situation.

The briefing was called in the light of a broadcast on a television channel about the discovery of the body, which questioned the purity of the city’s water supply.

Some 50% of the city’s water comes from surface water sources with the remainder coming from wells.