Water is fundamental to the survival of mankind, so it is essential that our water supplies remain potable. In this regard, representatives from the Public Health Department, Belize Water Services, BWS, and CARPHA, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, met today to develop a water safety plan for Belize. Shermaine Clauzel of CARPHA spoke to the media about the project.
Shermaine Clauzel, Representative of CARPHA: “We’re looking at the supply system from the time water is abstracted, the conditions of their surrounding environments, what’s going on there, what sorts of hazards could be experienced there, what’s introduced into the water whether it’s biological, chemical and what’s being done to treat it and to ensure that consumers get the best quality water that fits the health regulations. We’re also interested in activities related to development so any future planning that’s taking into account development, energy production upstream of the intake that could impact on quality then we want to engage with those as well. Two weeks ago we were here and we did have a walk through of the area where water is abstracted; Double Run, we looked at the water treatment process so we’ve gathered some information which is now being represented at this meeting to the wider group. So together we’re going to identify where within that system there may be opportunities for hazards and together we will work out what the hazards are, how significant they are, the likelihood of them occurring and what is currently in place to control these hazards and if these are not sufficient what we can do different and that is going to form the basis of the plan. So going forward we would have gone through a very extensive process to identify all the vulnerabilities and then catalog specifically down to costs how these can be addressed.”
BWS is the main supplier of water and their data is being looked at in an effort to design the water safety plan.
Dave Pascascio, Operations Manager, Belize Water Service: “Abstract water from the Belize River per say. We are only abstracting it from that point at our treatment plan in Sandhill but what happens upstream from that could affect the raw water when it reaches us so the water safety plan encompasses all of that. All surface source water do have threats and risks just by human activities meaning agriculture and whatever else because it’s surface water, anybody can go and touch it and have access to it; we don’t control that part of it but we do risk mitigation and we see what are the biggest threats and we try to work with key stakeholders with mitigating those risks. We have three surface water treatment plants, namely Belize City, Dangriga and Belmopan and those in last year, the abstraction value and demand on those sources was 2.6 billion gallons. Then we have 28 well fields that is some 2.2 billion gallons of water that we got from those wells and with the difference being from reverse osmosis plants which is also well water but well water from saline well water.”
John Bodden, the Principal Public Health Inspector, explained that public health is mandated to ensure that the water is safe; however, there needs to be collaboration with other entities and that is one of the aims of the water safety plan.
John Bodden, Public Health Inspector, Ministry of Health: “There are many many challenges in fact while we are producing very good quality water some of the issues that are affecting the quality of water number one is climate change and that can be seen in the impact we are having in Orange Walk currently. I think we are very fortunate that this did not happen on the Belize River so if that did occur then this system we are looking at right now in the pilot project covers more than one third of the country’s population so it would have been a lot of people that would have been out of drinking water. We have also the issue with farmers who are using a lot of pesticides and they’re clearing the banks and so you’re having runoffs getting into the water, we have people who are doing direct deposits of waste from humans into the river and we also have some alteration of the environment which are contributing to the contamination of drinking water sources and primarily some of the water sources that we are using in this country are surface water and those are some of the most high risk sources to be using.”