…was used for testing in water distribution mains – Minister Bulkan
The Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) purchased 100 litres of the questionable chemical Antinfek, which it used for testing of the treatment of water in distribution lines.
This disclosure was made by Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, seconds after he vehemently denied that the questionable chemical was being used by the GWI at any of its water treatment plants across the country.
Bulkan was at the time being grilled by Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr Frank Anthony, who at the beginning of Friday’s session of the National Assembly sought to enquire of the Minister why and how GWI came to be using the questionable chemical.
Bulkan, after complaining of being ambushed with the questions by the Opposition member, vehemently denied that GWI was using the chemical at any of its Water Treatment Plants.
After fielding numerous clarifications on the chemical and GWI’s use of it, Minister Bulkan confessed that the water company had, in fact, purchased 100 litres of Antinfek for testing.
Dr Frank Anthony
He said the chemical was for testing in the water distribution mains.
Dr Anthony – who holds the Opposition shadow parliamentary portfolio for Health – at the beginning of the sitting, used the occasion permitted for questions without notice to be fielded by the Minister.
Dr Anthony sought to query of Bulkan whether “Antifek or Polyhexanide” was being used for purification of water and if so who authorised its use.
He queried too when the decision was taken to use Antinfek instead of chorine, which countries were using the chemical, what international agencies have approved its use and were the members of the communities where it was in use notified?
Dr Anthony also sought to find out the procurement methods used by the GWI among other concerns.
Bulkan, in seeking to provide preliminary answers—since he had been ambushed with the questions- said the GWI met with the Public Utilities Commission over the very concerns surrounding the use of Antinfek.
He said this information would be made available to the public at some later time.
Bulkan then informed the House that he had only been informed of the questions two hours ahead of time and, as such, would not be in a position to give full and complete answers but preliminary responses.
The Communities Minister, at this point in time, proceeded to inform the House that the GWI was not using the chemical at any of its Water Treatment Plants across the country and that there were some locations where Alum and Lime were being used.
Before seeking to regale the House on some of the uses of Polyhexanide, the chemical used in Antinfek, Minister Bulkan insisted that the chemical has, in fact, been used before in Guyana and had been approved for importation by the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB).
He insisted, however, that there has been no decision taken as yet with regard to the widespread use of Antinfek.
In late October, the GWI confirmed that it was using the chemical, but maintained that it was just being tested.
This news agency has since been able to verify, through internal communications of the water company, that the chemical has, in fact, been put into use at three locations, including Diamond, one of the largest housing schemes in the nation, affecting thousands of consumers.
Minutes of meetings during March 2016 show that the Antinfek chemical was scheduled for use in new wells in several communities in Bartica. The documents from another meeting in June 2016 indicate that the well at the Linden-Soesdyke Highway would also be dosed with Antinfek. In fact, the internal communications illustrate that dosing pumps were being procured to add the chemical into the well. Additionally, the records of a July 2016 meeting show that the well at Diamond, East Bank Demerara, was also being dosed with the Antinfek chemical to treat the water.
On October 22, Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo called for a full-fledged investigation into the use of the chemical after an order by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to the GWI to halt its use of this chemical.
In its public missive on the issue, the GWI said it was still using chlorine, the sole disinfecting agent in all the treatment plants, while laboratory studies were being done on the use of other treatment alternatives.
The water company argued that it was found that the residual concentration of chlorine had a short life-span, so it did not protect the water from recontamination during prolonged storage. Antinfek is manufactured by DoveBiotech Group of Companies, which describes the chemical as a powerful organic bio-polymer-based compound, effective in decontamination of water against waterborne diseases, bacteria and fungi.
Internal communications show that the GWI Scientific Services Manager outlined that research suggested that the chemical was not recommended for approval for household water treatment distribution in Haiti, which had no US National Sanitary Foundation (NFS) certification for potable water use.
Guyana Times understands that a DoveBiotech representative claimed that Antinfek was “approved for sale in Guyana by the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board of Guyana”. However, the Registrar at the Board indicated to the GWI by email that “records at the PTCCB do not show a registration/approval for this product”.
Notably, the importation of this chemical requires approval by the PTCCB under the law. (Guyana Times)