Port Kaituma receiving new well after high mercury levels found in Kaituma River- GWI

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A second well is now being drilled in the Port Kaituma area, North West District (NWD) to bring relief to residents of the said area after it was proven that a high levels of mercury  have been discovered in the Kaituma River.

Samples had been taken from the river located in Region one, and the results have shown levels of 0.016mg/L, which are more than the accepted World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) 0.006mg/L standard.

Guyana Water Incorporated’s (GWI’s) Managing Director, Dr Richard Van West-Charles told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that the drilling of the new well has commenced at Turn Basin, Port Kaituma.

The said well is expected to be completed within the next three to four weeks and “will have a significant relief,” West-Charles divulged.

He further revealed that in addition to another already drilled well at Koko, Port Kaituma, a series of jerrycans were provided in order for the waters taken from the creek to be filtered.

According to the Managing Director “What we’re doing  actually is trying to ensure that as far as possible until we can drill wells and provide jerrycans as well as filters so that the water accessed by the residents which are from creeks or rivers is clean for use”.

GWI’s Managing Director Dr Richard Van West-Charles

With respect to treatment plans, West-Charles noted that 22 out of the 24 treatment plans were consistently compliant with WHO’s standards.

He said “We had fluctuations in two cases. In essence, we’re working and monitoring and testing very frequently to ensure that the water that is available, that leaves our treatment plans are all in compliance with WHO standards”.

An elevated level of Mercury was found in the residents main source of water of supply in early May of 2018.

According to reports, as a result of the discovery, GWI has since ceased pumping the water to residents and worked to have wells drilled in the communities at Turn Basin and at Citrus Grove, Port Kaituma.

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and GWI to investigate the discovery further.

Apart from Region one, in Region Seven a Sam Huston State University Professor, conducting research documenting the effects of mercury contamination in freshwater fishes and food webs in the Mazaruni River and tributaries, has found higher than normal levels of mercury in the fishes as well as the water.

Dr Carmen Montaña-Schalk from the Department of Biological Sciences has been conducting research in the Mazaruni area for the past two years, and has published some of her preliminary findings recently.

Preliminary results by Dr Montaña-Schalk suggest a strong potential for bio-accumulation of mercury in the aquatic food web. For instance, large fish predators contain greater concentrations of mercury.

Dr Montaña-Schalk has also observed that several fishes important in local human diets had Hg (mercury) levels higher (> 1 mg Hg/kg) than the threshold proposed by the WHO (0.5 mg Hg /kg).

“Therefore, local communities along the Mazaruni River are exposed to dangerous levels of mercury through consumption of fish as well as piscivorous wildlife,” the paper stated.

Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) is predominantly a mining region, and mercury plays a large part in gold recovery there.

The Mazaruni River houses one of the world’s greatest concentrations of freshwater biodiversity, and contains high levels of species, with a number of Amerindian communities relying on those fishes for their food. The Mazaruni area is home to thousands of Amerindians. (Kizzy Coleman)

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