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Health fears rise in Kisumu over level of iron in tap water

Source: Standard Digital News
Updated Monday, January 28 2013 at 00:00 GMT+3
By Maureen Odiwuor

KISUMU; KENYA: There are fears that water in Kisumu County has been contaminated with excess iron.

This is after residents noticed water coming from their taps is brown. The brownish water has been running from taps in homes within the county in the past one week as authorities unsuccessfully struggle to treat it.

Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (Kiwasco) confirmed that the water contains high iron caused by hyacinth in Lake Victoria.

Kiwasco, however, said the water is safe and the high iron has not compromised its quality. But despite the assurances, residents are worried since consuming the mineral in high quantity has effects. Director of Public Health and Sanitation Shahnaz Shariff told The Standard that excess iron is poisonous and could cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms that lead to diarrhoea and vomiting.

Drinking water

He said in cases of excessive intake of iron, some patients might feel weak and experience sweating, while others may complain of fever and their skin may appear pale.

“Excess iron can make a patient go into a comma. So far, I am yet to witness a case of a patient suffering from excess iron in the country,” said Dr Shariff. Nyanza Provincial Director of Public Health and Sanitation Johnstone Kioko said he is not sure if the presence of water hyacinth can affect drinking water.

“We are still not sure if the weed affects water quality, unless the Government chemist conducts tests to ascertain the truth,” he said.

Dr Kioko said he doubts residents leaving along shores of the lake have been affected since diarrhoea trends declined in Kisumu and its environs between October and December last year. Director of Medical Services Ojwang’ Lusi said iron metals are highly insoluble hence they easily pass into water.

“I don’t think ingesting too much iron through drinking water is associated with adverse health effects,” he said. Kenya Bureau of Standards communications manager Patricia Kimathi said they often carry out routine testing of water supplied by Kiwasco.

She said water sampled in December indicated it was fit for human consumption. “We will investigate the complaint of iron deposits and revert to you,” Kimathi told The Standard.
Kiwasco blames the high iron on hyacinth due to its interference with water treatment.

The firm’s corporate communications executive Gregory Odero said water hyacinth has led to production of excess iron, which reacts with chlorine used in the water treatment. According to him, the reaction is what caused the colour of water to turn brownish. “The PH of the water is also affected due to lack of aeration when hyacinth gets trapped at intake point,” he said. Odero said they have to aerate the water from the intake point and stabilise the PH.

He said the weed, which is known worldwide for interference with water treatment, has made them incur extra costs to grant consumers quality water. This has made them conduct several tests on the water released to ensure it is not harmful to users.

Dry up

“We are working round the clock to ensure our water quality is not affected,” he said.

He ruled out possibilities of the water being contaminated and assured residents that water being supplied to them is safe despite the brown colour. Kiwasco is banking on the current dry weather, which has seen the weed start to dry up, to help correct the anomaly.

Some residents have been forced to clean their tanks hoping that the brownish water will disappear while others have resorted to drink and cook using mineral water bought from supermarkets.

“I emptied my 10,000 litres water tank two weeks ago thinking it was dirty. But when I refilled it, I realised the brownish colour was still there. It is sad that I will still pay for the wasted water,” said Maxwell Onyango.

For Juliet Anyango, who lives in Milimani Estate, she was forced to check if there was any leakage on water pipes supplying the commodity to her house.

“I got worried when I drew water from the tap and used it to cook ugali. The food turned cream yellow in colour. I had to throw it away. I realised water was the problem,” she said.

Anyango now spends close to Sh1,000 per week to buy mineral water for cooking and drinking.

Meanwhile, the hyacinth menace in Lake Victoria is getting perplexing. The weed has started to dry up making residents wonder what is causing the new phenomenon.

But many boat operators have welcomed the turn of events terming them a good sign that Lake Victoria is about to be freed from the weed.
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Reader’s Comments Click here to comment Hide
Comments in chronological order (Total 3 comments)

Magati 28 January 2013 11:45 AM Here people get employed to earn salary. Not to offer expertise or knowledge. Amazingly, 80% top management of important organizations like this one, live in Nairobi only to give technical appearances in their offices in specified days only to sign cheques or money deals. (thanks to KQ and travel allowance) With such loitering travelling, you expect nothing but a non-committed top manager with a dont-care team. There is no quality assurance from the authority or even NEMA. Sad for Kisumu and Kenya in particular.

Magati 28 January 2013 11:43 AM Here people get employed to earn salary. Not to offer expertise or knowledge. Amazingly, 80% top management of important organizations like this one, live in Nairobi only to give technical appearances in their offices in specified days only to sign cheques or money deals. (thanks to KQ and travel allowance) With such loitering travelling, you expect nothing but a non-committed top manager with a dont-care team. There is no quality assurance from the authority or even NEMA. Sad for Kisumu and Kenya in particular.

mzalendo 28 January 2013 3:17 AM This is a very serious health issue- what is the verdict- how can we have varied opinions about such an important and sensitive issue from people we calim authority in this area?

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