Even as concerns remain about water quality, no lab tests have been conducted

While the recent joint drive by the civic body and the health department against water tankers has raised fresh concerns about the quality of water supplied through them, it has become clear that no water sample has so far been subjected to lab tests to establish quality.

A senior health department official told The Hindu that action was initiated against water tankers not for the inferior quality of water supplied, but for violating other guidelines set for their operations. So far, no samples have been given for the lab test, he said.

T.K. Asharaf, chairman of the health standing committee of Kochi Corporation, said that the civic body reserves the right to cancel the licence of water tankers found to carry substandard water. The Corporation, however, has not cancelled any licence during the recent drive, stating that it is for the health department to report on the quality of the water.

He said that the Corporation is primarily concerned with inspecting whether the conditions, like the cleanliness of the tanker, subjected to which it has issued licences to the water tankers have been complied with.

“Often the dubious water source leads to substandard quality of water. But these sources are within panchayat and municipal limits and hence beyond the jurisdiction of the Corporation,” Mr. Asharaf said.

District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareeth said quality concerns can be addressed if suppliers complied with the guideline that they chlorinate the sources from which they collect water.

“Steps will be taken to ensure that monitoring of these water sources by the health department is more frequent and effective. Flat owners, the largest customer base for water supplied through tankers, should evolve a mechanism to ensure the quality of water supplied rather than trusting the suppliers,” he said.

Ernakulam District Residents Association Apex Council (EDRAAC) president Ranganatha Prabhu agreed with this suggestion, stating that it would make suppliers more circumspect about the quality of water they distribute.

P.M. Gopinathan, president of a flat owners’ association at Chalikkavattom, said they have no means to test the quality of water supplied in tankers. “We have been dependent on water tankers from 2007. Since no health issues have been reported, we presume that the water quality is acceptable,” he said.

R. Ramachandran, president, Ernakulam District Drinking Water Transporters’ Association, challenged health authorities to prove that water carried by the association members was substandard, while alleging that the drive against water tankers was an exercise by a few officials to garner eyeballs.

Quality test of the water will take at least 48 hours in lab conditions. Considering the rush at the Regional Analytical Laboratory, it will be months before the results are available, he said.

“If there were quality issues why hasn’t anyone lodged any complaints so far and why do people continue to buy from us,” asked Mr. Ramachandran, who claims to supply water to premium hotels, apartments and even the District Collector’s camp office. The association has 48 members with about 300 vehicles supplying about 3,000 loads of water in the district daily.

The district administration spends about Rs. 8 crore annually for water supply through tankers. While the daily consumption of water in the district is 6 lakh MLD, Kerala Water Authority supplies only about 2.5 lakh MLD. Mr. Pareeth said that the commissioning of the proposed 1 lakh MLD-Piravom water supply scheme and the proposed 2 lakh MLD-water filtering unit at Aluva will help balance the demand and supply of water in the district to a great extent till at least 2020.