Over the past few weeks, Belize City residents have been noticing a discoloration in their pipe water. Many complaints have been made over social media, but few have taken the time to visit Belize Water Services (BWS) to find out the reason. BWS has been issuing announcements to the public, but decided that a press conference may be better to reach more people. At this conference, BWS’ CEO, Alvin Haynes, told us the water is discolored due to the high levels of iron, but is otherwise completely safe to use.
Alvin Haynes, CEO, Belize Water Services: “The slight discoloration of the water and sometimes it perhaps worse that slight but that based on what we’ve seen the water is not unsafe however based on our test it’s due to increased levels of iron in the water which basically comes through from the untreated water, we treat it through the plant but it does not remove the iron levels because the plant at Double Run was designed for the type of water that was tested the time the plant was being constructed twenty years ago. What we’ve seen is that we’re getting higher levels of iron in the water than before. Now, we have actually experienced this in the San Ignacio system some years ago and we had to enhance the treatment to basically remove the iron levels and the problem with the iron in the water is that it reacts with the chlorine and causes the discoloration. So as the water sits in the system it comes from the plant clear and as it sits in the system in the pipes then it builds up the discoloration. So the simple solution is usually to run the water for a little bit so that that clears up and then it’s perfectly good. The main problem with the discoloration is that it would stain white clothes in the laundry but other than that it’s safe to bathe, it’s safe to give to use to cook, it’s safe to give the dogs to drink or for people to drink etc.”
CEO Haynes also told us how BWS will remedy this issue so it is not a problem in the future.
Alvin Haynes, CEO, Belize Water Services: “We figure that the problem will clear up and we will take care of it in several ways. One, we believe that the main increase was caused by the first onset of unusually heavy rains back about the 14th, 15th of October. It implies that land clearing has caused soil to be washed into the river because iron is a natural component in the soil and has increased the levels and that that will subside hopefully. We are assuming based on the test we have that it went high and then it has reduced somewhat. There’s nothing within the treatment that lets say is magnetized or so on, basically the water is coming down the river and the intake at the plant takes the river water and then puts it through a process that removes contaminants, anything that is bacteriological is treated. We must put chlorine in the water because the chlorine is what takes care in ensuring that any bacteria that could be harmful to health is destroyed and kept out of the water. So no the only way increased iron levels get within the water is because it’s in the source and it’s not one of the things that the plant was designed to remove. We will now actually put an additional component that will attract and coagulate and remove the iron components. So we are fortunate now in that we already have the chemicals required, it’s simply to install an additional component at the plant which at the worst would take three or four days.”