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Judicial team finds KWSB chlorination unit leaking

KARACHI: Serious gaps were found in the operation of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), this time at its three other filter plants during inspection by a judicial commission on Wednesday, raising questions over the quality of water being supplied to the city.

The commission tasked by the Supreme Court to hold an inquiry into the state’s failure in providing clean drinking water and sanitation visited the KWSB installations in the Gulshan-i-Iqbal, north-east Karachi and Manghopir areas.

Earlier, it had visited the Dhabeji pumping station, the Pipri filter plant and a small sewage treatment plant being run in the Port Qasim area.

At the COD filter plant, which receives a total of 135MGD (million gallons per day) from the K-II and K-III conduits, the team led by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro found that the water treatment process had lost its efficacy as all the three clarifiers installed at the plant had been non-functional for at least a decade and had weeds growing in them.

The clarifiers are settling tanks built with mechanical means for continuous removal of solids being deposited by sedimentation.

“If clarifiers are non-functional that means the treatment process has lost its efficacy as 70pc of the silt that should have been removed by a clarifier comes to the filter beds and eventually makes its way to the public water supply system,” said former managing director of the KWSB Mohammad Suleman Chandio, who is assisting the commission as an adviser.

The plant had the capacity to filter 80MGD only.

Leaking gas

At the COD filter plant laboratory — stated to be the best at the KWSB units — the team was told that though the lab had equipment to check the presence of heavy metals in water, these tests could not be performed regularly because they were ‘unaffordable’.

The plant, like the water treatment plant in Pipri, lacked a mechanism between the laboratory staff and its administrative wing to immediately report a problem and take corrective action.

“The KWSB has no scientific mechanism to ensure supply of safe drinking water. Its laboratory tests are not reliable and there should be a third party evaluation,” said Advocate Shahab Usto, on whose petition the Supreme Court had formed the commission.

The chief chemist said that he “can’t make a major purchase from the procurement budget” and that there were two Grade-8 posts vacant when asked by the team to mention the problems being faced in running the laboratory.

It was disclosed that though the “plant had four chlorinators, their functioning was highly compromised” and there was a need for new chlorinators. In addition, the plant did not have the capacity to filter the 100MGD of water received from the K-III conduit, though it was chlorinated, the staff claimed.

The team was exposed to the toxic fumes of chlorine gas as they entered the plant’s chlorination unit and found it leaking. “How could the staff work in such hazardous conditions or, as it seems, the unit has been operated today only for the commission’s visit,” Mr Usto said.

The state of rusty, unnamed cylinders suggested that they had not been used for a long time and whether they contained chlorine as the staff claimed.

Much to the surprise of the team, the laboratory at the north-east Karachi filter plant was being manned by only one person. The huge dust on equipment and even in the sink indicated that the laboratory was not functional, though the staff claimed otherwise.

The lab record was found dubious as temperature readings of different sites taken over three to four consecutive days were the same. The ponds at the NEK filter plant for K-II supplies were never cleaned while there was no filtration system for the 100MGD supplied from the K-III channel.

At the Hub pumping station/ filter plant, the KWSB staff informed the team that “there was a major seepage in the canal bringing water to the station from the Hub dam, resulting in water loss”.

Besides, the facility did not have the capacity to filter 20MGD of the total 100MGD it supplied to the city. The entire quantity of water, however, was ‘chlorinated’.

The KWSB staff at the Manghopir filter plant shared their concerns over illegal sand excavation and encroachment in the area, which, they said, was a major threat to the plant infrastructure, which might cave in.

“Of the 866 acres falling under the KWSB jurisdiction, 30pc is encroached,” said KWSB official Zafar Palijo.

The team noticed that two of the three chlorinators at the filter plant had been out of order for over a year while both clarifiers were non-functional; one was claimed to have been emptied for silt removal whereas the other was jammed due to silt.

There was no electricity back-up system at any filter plant. The KWSB blamed these issues on financial constraints and said its focus had been more on water supply than its quality.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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