It is not in doubt that the quality of life of human beings all over the world has a direct correlation with the quality of water they consume. It is against this background that the saying goes, water is life. It is therefore not surprising the level of apprehension among Ghanaians after the media published a report on a research conducted by the Water Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The report shows that the current treatment regime operated by the Ghana Water Company Limited at its Weija Dam site is incapable of removing algae toxins in the fresh water sources. The Researcher, Dr Gloria Addico stressed that the Weija Water is increasing in blue-green algae. This is serious because algae toxins have devastating effects on the lives of consumers. Of course, the algae toxins can cause problems to the kidney, liver, heart and the nervous systems of animals including humans. It is therefore premature on the part of the Ghana Water Company Limited and the Ghana Standards Authority to just dismiss the report. These two bodies should not focus on protecting their image at the expense of the lives of thousands if not millions of people who depend on water produced from the Weija Dam. Yes, it is true that Ghana Water Company Limited operates quite a number of treatment plants. Gracefully, the current problem is attributed to just one of the treatment plants, specifically, the one at Weija. However, this does not imply that there are no issues with the other plants as there are no studies to that effect. Until and unless, there is a research into these other plants, consumers can only thread with caution.
In rejecting the findings of the CSIR research, the Ghana Water Company Limited argued strongly that the researcher was not aware of all the chemicals the company uses in the treatment of its Weija water. In fact, the Chief Manager in charge of Water Quality Assurance at the Company, Jonas Jabulo, indicated that they use nine different chemicals, including alum and chlorine. On the contentious issue of algae toxins, Mr Jabulo indicated that the company uses granulated activated carbon which is capable of absorbing such toxins. Whereas it is true that the activated carbon can absorb the algae toxins, its efficacy depends largely on how it is applied. In the absence of an activated carbon filter plant, one wonders if by merely sprinkling the powder in the water, it will work to perfection. The Ghana Standards Authority has also insisted that GWCL has met all national and international standards. This may be true, but it is an undeniable fact that these standards are simply guidelines which spell out the minimum levels. So any level just above the minimum can be deemed to have met the standards. Instead of treating this report as damaging to the corporate image of GWCL, with the potential of affecting its profit margins, the Ghana Water Company Limited must see this as a wakeup call to review and possibly upgrade its treatment regime. One point which is clear is that several thousands of people depend on the Weija water for one use or the other. It will be self-denial for some people to think that they do no drink pipe water and for that matter cannot be affected if indeed there are toxins in the Weija water. What they have forgotten is that all these pure and bottle water companies and breweries take their water from Ghana Water Company. What is unclear is whether these companies are able to cure the defect with the water they get from GWCL.
The CSIR research has come at an opportune time. It re-echoes the need to protect fresh water bodies by stopping improper waste disposal, illegal mining, and farming along river banks. This also calls for the Water Resources Commission to be more proactive in the discharge of its responsibilities. Going forward, the Water Research Institute and the Ghana Water Company Limited must cease these current open hostilities and collaborate with the Water Resources Commission, so that together they can fashion out effective ways of protecting our water bodies, and ensuring the production of clean and safe potable water.
BY BUBU KLINOGO A JOURNALIST