27 February 2018

Malawi: Results of Area 18A Water Contamination Inquiry Out

Lilongwe — Results of the inquiry into the Area 18A water contamination incident that occurred in July, 2017 have been released and handed over to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) in Lilongwe.

Chief Secretary to OPC, Lloyd Muhara, received the report from the task force chairperson, Rexie Chiluzi at Capital Hill in Lilongwe on Monday on behalf of His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika.

On 18th July, last year (2017), residents in Area 18A in Lilongwe had a rude awakening when they discovered that water was contaminated with faecal matter, a development that forced the residents into worrying that diarrhoea or cholera would break out soon following the incident.

The sad incident also prompted the country's president, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika to institute a taskforce to find out what had caused the water contamination in the township.

Presenting the results of inquiry in the presence of officials from Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC), Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), Lilongwe City Council (LCC) and government officials, Chiluzi gave a number of highlights.

"The taskforce found out and confirmed that water was indeed contaminated with sewage on 18th July, 2017. The source of sewage was a blocked sewer line that resulted in overflowing manhole," reads part of the report which was made available to the media.

The report further explains the sewage had been flowing in a roadside drain along Salima Street, passing where LWB's water pipe burst street which was about 100 metres away from the overflowing manhole.

"The flowing sewage infiltrated into the LWB's burst pipe due to the sewage pool along the roadside drain as a result of low or no pressure in the water pipe," the report further reads.

According to the report, after the incident, LWB confirmed the water contamination through water quality tests which were conducted in collaboration with ministries of Agriculture and Health six days after the incident (24th July).

However, the results of the tests showed negative of E.Coli, meaning the water was fit for human consumption. E.Coli is a microorganism whose presence in water shows it is contaminated with faecal matter).

"This, therefore, meant that the water was fit for human consumption," says the report and adds that further water tests conducted by Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) and Malawi Environmental Health Association also showed the water was negative of E.Coli, meaning it was fit for human consumption.

Among the recommendations made, the report urges Lilongwe City Council and Malawi Housing Corporation to develop a clear working relationship in the management of sewer lines and solid waste in Area 18 Housing Estate to avoid recurrence of the incident.

"There is need for government, through independent institutions, to make public announcements about the safety of water in Area 18 A in order to regain confidence since the affected people are still skeptical as to whether water being supplied to the area is safe for human consumption," the report further advises.

On the disparities regarding the number of affected households affected by the water contamination, the taskforce has so far recommended to use the LWB's findings (83 households), saying the figure was based on proper assessment.

In the final assessment of affected households made by different institutions, LWB came up with 83, while the legal counsel representing the affected people found that 269 households were affected while Malawi Human Rights Commission estimated that 150 households were affected by the incident.

Receiving the report, Chief Secretary to Office of the President and Cabinet, Lloyd Muhara expressed hope the report by presented by the taskforce chairperson, Rexie Chiluzi, would answer the numerous questions people had and still have on the matter.

When asked to comment on the issue now that the report was out, Area 18 Ward Councillor, Kwame Bandawe declined to do so, saying much as he represented the affected people, it was difficult to comment on the issue which was in court.

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