Madurai

Is your ‘bubbletop’ water safe?

There is little knowledge of the origin of packaged water and how it is processed

As the temperature soars between 37 and 39 degree Celsius in Madurai, packaged drinking water manufacturers and distributors are having a field day as regulations are barely checked and water is irregularly tested.

A source from the PWD says that only 20% of the total number of manufacturers in Madurai have licences. Water is usually drawn from areas like Alagarkoil Road, Kadachanendal, Pudur, Mangalakudi, Kochadai, Thuvariman and Melakkal which have rich groundwater base. Groundwater in these areas is usually fit for direct consumption. Since many of the laboratories are not fully equipped, necessary tests, including for presence of total dissolved solids (TDS), chloride, sulphate, e. coli, coliform bacteria, aerobic microbes and yeast are rarely done. Manufacturers must also check the raw water pump at borewell, per-filtration pumps, washing area and filling pumps, UV lamps and reverse osmosis membrane but these checks do not take place regularly.

A packaged drinking water manufacturer says that a microbiologist and a chemist must be employed by the firm through the year. However, most people can only afford them on a part-time basis. A limit of 20,000 litres has been set by the PWD for small and medium scale manufacturers and 30,000 for large scale manufacturers. But these rules are not followed, says an expert who works closely with drinking water plants.

“Those who are looking to set up units must seek get clearance from Revenue Inspector, Village Administrative Officer and village panchayat head to process packaged water. They must also fill a form for the PWD. We will conduct an eight-hour pump test and check the yield. If it is of good quality, we will give them a licence,” says the PWD official. The PWD is unable to determine the total number of firms in the city and outer limits as many function with permissions from Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

Is your ‘bubbletop’ water safe?
 

N. Senthil Kumar, a proprietor of a local packaged drinking water company with requisite permissions and licences, says that many units do not list the nutrition information, the expiry date or the price. He insists that the reusable plastic water cans are to be replaced every six months based on usage. He clarifies that packaged drinking water means the removal of all minerals in drinking water. “It is difficult to ensure that water business is running properly as there are many unlicensed players and unofficial tankers who supply unsafe water for cheaper rates. Our water is regarded safe for consumption and the label usually has contact information for complaints, doubts and queries. This is not always the case,” he says.

Due to extensive groundwater extraction, areas like Usilampatti and Chellampatti are in the over-exploited and semi-critical phase. Areas in Madurai are in the safe and semi-critical zone, but the day is not far when the city will also join the danger league, warms an official of the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board.

K. Marundeeswarar, a distributor in K.K. Nagar, says customers must ask questions. “Ensure that there is a label with the date of expiry and nutrition value. Check whether the plastic container has been recycled recently. Do not encourage water tankers which supply water for ₹ 20. It could be untreated water. Make sure licences of the manufacturer are listed on the label,” he adds.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 8:06:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/bubbletop-water-at-our-doorstep/article23430543.ece

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