15 May 2017

Nigeria: Harmful Germs in Water Samples

A recent independent investigation by Daily Trust uncovered germs in public water samples taken from many states in the country. Samples were taken from Abuja, Lagos, Plateau, Katsina, Kano and Enugu. The samples were analyzed according to the guidelines of the American Public Health Association, 19th edition. The investigation found that many of the samples didn't meet the World Health Organization's [WHO] standards or the Nigerian Standard for Drinking Water Quality, NSDWQ.

The samples were randomly taken from the states and analyzed at different testing centers including the National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna. Some of the samples even contained faecal matter, indicating that we're drinking our own faeces or someone else's. "The analysis signed by the institute's head, Water Supply and Sanitation, Ahmed Salisu Hassan and analysed by Agboola Irene Omolara revealed that the values of faecal coliform and total coliforms indicator organisms are above the standard guideline values recommended for drinking water," Daily Trust reported. The source of the harmful organisms could be traced to any of the following: the water itself from the water boards, dirty storage tanks, inappropriate sample collection, sample handling, sample containers, leaking pipes etc.

According to the Nigerian Industrial Standard, the health effects of drinking water that exceeded the maximum limits of the two indicators tested by Daily Trust, i.e. total Coliform Count and Thermo tolerant Coliform are "urinary tract infections, bacteraemia, diarrhoea, acute renal failure and haemolyticanaemia." Some of these are killer diseases. All in all, analysis showed that the sample taken from Lagos was not safe for human consumption. They found the same result with the sample taken from Kaduna, which was found to be totally unsafe for human consumption. Even though the colour of the water from Kaduna and Abuja was acceptable, Abuja sample was also found to be harmful.

However, not all states failed the tests. Water from Enugu, Kano and Katsina was found to be safe for drinking. Sample collected from Jos, Plateau State was also safe for drinking. However, many states later faulted the findings. For example, the Federal Capital Territory water board said that the results couldn't be generalized. Director of the board, Hudu Bello, said professionals at the board verify standards before water is dispensed. Yet, we find the report to be instructive and the fact that the reporters followed the scientific method was impressive. The samples were taken randomly; areas where samples were taken, time and dates were recorded and reported. Above all, the samples were subjected to standard analyses by experts, which means that the study is replicable. Another independent entity could follow the same procedure to falsify the findings of Daily Trust. Until that is done, we are going to hold this report as the current state of the drinking water situation, especially from the states surveyed.

We however agree with FCT water board that we must exercise caution in generalizing the findings. One study is not enough and more are needed. Therefore, we call for similar investigations from all concerned; not only of the state of our drinking water but for other sectors and services as well.

Still, this particular report calls our attention to a public service that has been left unexamined for many years. For example, we ask the question, who regulates our water boards? Are they subject to regulations from agencies such as NAFDAC?

Also important is the fact that our public water facilities have been around for many years and some are in dire need of upgrade. However, sometimes when funds are budgeted for that purpose, the work is not done and the funds disappear. Bad water can kill and therefore must be freed from the ever present corruption in our country. When our water providers pump poison to our homes, we can no longer call what they do public service but something worse, much worse.

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