Over the past few days, nearly 90 private water tankers have been caught transporting water without even a trace of chlorine

Does a private water tanker supply water to your locality? If that is the case, it is time that you checked how safe it is for drinking. A recent water quality test conducted by the Chennai Corporation and the Food Safety department showed that water transported in 90 private tankers across the city did not have even a trace of chlorine.

As many as 90 private tankers that cater largely to apartment complexes, hotels, hospitals and commercial establishments were checked over the past few days. The water samples transported by private vehicles were checked in various areas such as Koyambedu, Retteri and Padi. The exercise follows the recent death of two construction workers from West Bengal, allegedly due to acute diarrheal disease after drinking water procured from a private tanker supplier at their workplace in Pallikaranai.

These tankers are becoming indispensable as the demand for water is on the rise. While Metrowater’s supply is primarily through pipes, some localities rely on tankers for their daily needs. Chennai Metrowater operates nearly 670 tanker trips every day and charges a nominal amount for them. The remaining gap between demand and supply, especially for the suburbs and large establishments, is mainly bridged by private water lorries. While over 2,000 private tankers are said to be in the business in and around Chennai, there is no regulation or monitoring of the quality of water supplied or the number of trips operated by these private suppliers.

According to sources in the Food Safety department, the Chennai Corporation is the authority to enforce quality norms on private water lorries in the city while the Public Health department fulfils that function in the city’s fringes. None of the water samples checked had the minimum chlorine level of 0.2 parts per million (ppm), as per prevalent specifications. The water in these tankers had been extracted from borewells or open wells in agricultural areas.

“We are creating awareness of the importance of chlorination and we also add chlorine in water in some lorries. The drivers are advised to keep the tankers clean and also taught easy methods of adding chlorine,” said an official. Details of the tanker operators are recorded and officials said they would soon be served with notices to improve water quality.

Private water suppliers must be brought under the purview of the Food Safety and Standards Act so that they can be regularised and provided licences to operate trips, the officials added. The random checks will continue in southern parts of the city, including Velachery. On Saturday, packaged drinking water transported in nearly 30 bubbletop containers was seized on account of being unsafe for consumption.

Meanwhile, some of the private tanker suppliers in Selaiyur said that while demand and competition has increased, sourcing water had become increasingly difficult. The owners of borewells sell water to those who pay the highest and the indiscriminate drawing of water has led to the wells drying quickly. To ensure water quality, stringent rules must be enforced on the volume to be extracted and borewell owners must also be held accountable, they said.

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