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Lilongwe Water Board raises more fears

THE Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) has said priority should be given to investment in sewerage network. This is one of the recommendations in a report the LWB submitted to Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Erica Maganga, following the contamination of water supplied by LWB in Area 18 a fortnight ago.

In the report, dated July 20, 2017, which The Sunday Times has seen, the Board has also recommended that government should consider re-engineering the development and management of sanitation services including sewer systems in the city of Lilongwe on the back drop of rapid population growth.

“In the short term, a prioritised investment would be a requirement to reinstate the sewerage network including refuse collection, as some of the refuse disposal sites happen to be on top of LWB pipelines,” reads the report.

It says that currently the Water Works Act mandates water boards to develop sanitation facilities. But during a public hearing on the matter conducted by the Malawi Human rights Commission (MHRC) on Friday, LWB Chief Executive Officer, Alfonso Chikuni, said the Board is yet to start developing the sanitation facilities.

The report also notes that liaison between local authorities, LWB, MHC and the community did not work well at all stages of the Area 18 incident. “There is a need for a single national agency to actively manage incidents where more than one government organisation is involved,” reads the report.

It has also recommended that routine inspections and maintenance by Lilongwe City Council should be enhanced. The report has also revealed that the raw sewage which found its way into LWB pipes had been overflowing for some months despite the residents reporting the issue to Lilongwe City Council.

“The raw sewer was coming from a reportedly long time broken sewer main, which according to residents, has been flowing for months in spite of reporting to the Lilongwe City Council authorities. The oozing sewer main had been spilling raw sewage into a nearby storm water drain that in turn led the sewage into a roadside drain all the way to the vicinity where the LWB pipe had burst,” reads the report.

It says a total of 130 residential units were affected. The report adds that LWB team which was deployed after the issue was reported also noted that the brick-lined roadside drain itself was also broken, creating sewage pools, along the way as it gravitated to lower elevation grounds. “One such big pool was at the proximity of the LWB broken pipe and the leaching sewage got siphoned into the unpressurised broken Asbestos Cement (AC) water main,” reads the report.

In the report, LWB has explained the extent of the contamination of the water that the 130 residential units in Area 18 received. “LWB site sampling of water showed grey water with Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) of 413mg/l, turbidity 53 NTU, Electrical Conductivity of 825 µS/ cm and residual chlorine 0.0 mg/l.

The organic matter contained in the raw sewer consumed all the residual chlorine,” reads the report. It adds: “This is contrary to the normal potable water results of water being supplied in the same area, which had a total undissolved solids of 162mg/l, turbidity of 0.8 NTU, electrical conductivity of 250 µS/cm and residual chorine of 1.0mg/l on the same day.”

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