Vital equipment not working in KWA Perimala plant

A large number of houses, schools, hospitals, hotels, and other establishments linked to the Kerala Water Authority (KWA)'s piped drinking water supply network in Nedumangadu taluk could have unsuspectingly consumed poorly treated raw reservoir water in the past one week, according to Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) investigators.

They said that a surprise inspection on Tuesday revealed that the two rotating clarifier bridges (designed to remove sludge and other solid impurities from untreated water) on the enormous circular sedimentation tanks at the KWA's Perimala treatment plant had not been working for a week.

Investigators said the Indian Space Research Organisation's Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Valiamala, which employed scores of scientists and technicians, drew water from the ‘defunct' treatment plant. Residents of Vattappara almost totally relied on the plant for their piped drinking water needs. The public health impact of the plant's malfunction was yet to be quantified and could be high in the long term, officials said. The treatment plant was repaired at a cost of Rs.28.5 lakh in June. The VACB team, assisted by engineers from the State and Central Public Works Departments, found that the repair works were shoddily executed. The worn-out parts of the powerful motors driving the bridges had been ‘merely' painted, not replaced.

The mix of the river sand and gravel that made the filter beds of the sedimentation tanks had not been replaced but ‘hurriedly washed and deposited back.'

Poor quality valves

Only three of the six faulty valves had been replaced. The ‘new valves' were of inferior quality and not standardised equipment authenticated by the Bureau of Indian Standards. The faulty valves caused large leaks in the plants. Local people used the ‘non-stop' overflowing water to bathe, wash their vehicles, and livestock. Most of the measuring gauges of the plant were not working.

The VACB found that the KWA had contracted a private person to execute the work at an alleged “33 per cent” exaggerated rate.

At least four KWA engineers had inspected the maintenance work and cleared the payment to the contractor. The VACB said their role in the alleged fiasco was suspect. The agency said they would possibly register a case of conspiracy and violation of the Prevention of Corruption Act on the basis of their preliminary findings. A detailed investigation was under way.

Director-General of Police Desmond Netto and Additional Director-General of Police N. Sankar Reddy had ordered the inspection on the basis of the findings of a secret inquiry.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Reji Jacob, Circle Inspector S. Suresh Kumar, engineers C. Vinod Kumar, P.M. Joshua, and P. Prasanna Kumar inspected the plant.