Consumer Protection Body blasts WASCO

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Limpho Sello

The Consumers Protection Association (CPA) has lambasted the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) for negligence that led to some bloodworms to recently wriggle their way into the Mpilo Resevoir.

Reports of the presence of the bloodworms in some parts of Maseru were brought to the attention of WASCO during the Christmas holidays.

In an interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday, the CPA Executive Director Nkareng Letsie said the presence of the bloodworms in the water showed that the quality of the water was compromised.

He said consumers who each month pay for safe and fit to drink water deserved to know how the water was compromised or polluted to understand what exactly they are boiling to kill since the bloodworms are said to be harmless when swallowed.

On Monday this week, WASCO’s Public Relations Manager, Lineo Moqasa confirmed in a statement that supplies from the Mpilo Reservoir had the larvae of midge fly commonly known as bloodworms.

Areas affected include Old and New Europa, Police Europa, the Central Business District, Maseru West, Mabote, Sekamaneng, Tsenola, Naleli and Motimposo.

Ms Moqasa suspects that some activities including testing and maintenance work could have created opportunities for the bloodworms to find their way to the Mpilo reservoir.

“The bloodworms are harmless and if one is accidentally swallowed, it would be as harmless as swallowing an ant. They pose no health risk,” read Ms Moqasa’s statement.

Despite indications that the bloodworms are harmless, WASCO encouraged consumers to boil or filter their water before consumption.

However, research showed that bloodworms, which are usually used as fishing bait, thrive in polluted water with low oxygen levels. Water that has low dissolved oxygen sometimes smell bad because of waste products produced by organisms that live in low oxygen environments. The ratio of the dissolved oxygen content to the potential capacity gives an indicator of water quality.

Mr Letsie of CPA said the current water crisis that has seen some areas affected experiencing disruptions in supplies, including the central business district, was a shocking sign of incompetence by WASCO, who are supposed to ensure that all quality control measures are taken before distribution, in accordance with the acceptable global standards.

“There is no way that water with bloodworms wriggling in it can be safe for human consumption, even after boiling because we need to understand what has triggered the presence of the worms and ensured their survival in the water?

“This is evidence enough to show that WASCO operations cannot be trusted because they are not doing what they are expected to do, which critically includes conducting regular quality control checks. This also tells consumers that WASCO has failed on its mandate. We fear that some people might have been exposed to some health risks, such as the effects of that bloodworm infested water on the skin,” Mr Letsie said.

However, so far, no sicknesses that can be connected to the water have been reported while the water company has embarked on remedial actions, including draining and cleaning of the distribution system of the affected areas, and flushing and cleaning one of the main service reservoirs at Mpilo.

The water company said its laboratory staff were closely monitoring the water quality and they are confident that despite the bloodworms, the quality standards remained compliant with all microbiological, chemical and physical specifications in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

“We continue to work towards the elimination of this aesthetic nuisance from tap water to ensure there will be no recurrence. We are also consulting to share experiences with other water utilities who have experienced this challenge in other countries to ensure that there is no repeat,” Ms Moqasa said in her statement.

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