G. Mahadevan

Quality control readings are now being done by an assistant engineer

No bacteriological readings taken at the plant

Any lapse in tests done cannot be detected

THIUVANANTHAPURAM: The non-availability of a qualified full-time chemist and bacteriologist at the 72 mld treatment plant of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) at Aruvikkara has cast a shadow over the soundness of the quality control process there.

The plant has now been functioning without a chemist for more than a month. The quality control readings—mainly of residual chlorine, turbidity and PH value—are now being done by an assistant engineer and sometimes by other staff members.

Now that the rain has begun, water in the Karamana would turn turbid very rapidly necessitating strict monitoring and enforcement of quality control parameters. No bacteriological readings were being done at Aruvikkara, KWA personnel there said.

Chemist on contract

Though the plant had a chemist on contract last year, her services were discontinued in October 2008 when the 72 mld plant suffered a series of malfunctions affecting the quantity and quality of its output.

Afterwards, the KWA procured the services of a chemist on daily wage basis. According to sources in the KWA, the chemist decided to withdraw her services following ‘protests’ by other staff at the plant.

In October 2008 when the plant was on the brink of closure following a series of malfunctions, the KWA had placed under suspension the executive engineer and assistant executive engineer in charge of the plant. Till date, none of the other staff at the plant have been issued even a memo.

Once the operations of the plant were normalised a few days later, the spotlight turned to the quality of treated water that was pumped to the city when the plant malfunctioned.

An investigation by top KWA officials revealed that the readings of the quality control tests on the raw and treated water were being entered in the register in a seemingly mechanical manner.

Faulty equipment

Even on days when the plant’s filtering equipment was faulty, the quality control readings were found to be ‘normal.’ A top KWA engineer had then told The Hindu that “the readings were too normal to be true.”

On October 21, 2008, for instance, the turbidity of the raw water at the plant had been recorded as 70 Nephelolimetric Units (NTU). The reading for the clear water had been recorded as 3.9 NTU. Under normal circumstances, the turbidity reading of clear water can go up to 5 NTU. A reading of 10 NTU or above is a “cause for rejection.”

That day the turbidity of the raw water, according to the register, was 70 NTU. When the then managing director of the KWA asked for an independent verification of the turbidity of the raw water the reading that was given to him was 100 NTU.

Sources had told The Hindu that the actual turbidity of raw water that day was above 200 NTU.

Even though the KWA personnel claimed they made quality control readings at the plant every hour, the quality control division of the KWA here had no means of knowing on a daily basis the quality of the water being produced at Aruvikkara. According to engineers at the plant, personnel from the quality control division visited Aruvikkara twice every month to check the raw and treated water. So, any lapse in the tests done at Aruvikkara cannot be detected immediately.

Staff shortage

Sources in the KWA also pointed out that assistant engineers were being asked to do quality control tests at a time when there was shortage of personnel in that cadre. In such a big facility, the post of AE (electrical) has been lying vacant for some time now.