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Metro Water dispels residents’ qualms about colour, odour, assures quality water

Worries over Metro Water quality increased the dependency on packaged water, which was evident after the units went on a week-long strike

Metro Water dispels residents’ qualms about colour, odour, assures quality water
Metro Water mixes chlorine to prevent diseases by killing microbes; bubble top water can units ration out


Around this time last year, the city experienced one of its worst droughts after almost running out of drinking water, forcing it to adopt drastic measures, including bringing it from Vellore by rail. Now, though the lakes have sufficient water to see through the summer months, several households in Chennai are left to the mercy of packaged drinking water units.

The dependence of households, especially the middle and upper classes, on packaged drinking water was evident during the week-long strike by the packaging units across the State. Several residents were forced to buy water at exorbitant price. The retailers, too, struggled to meet the demand and faced the ire of their regular customers.

An important reason for this over-dependence is that most residents in the city believe that the water supplied by the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (Metro Water) is of poor quality.

“Since we moved to the city from our native, we are using purified packaged drinking water for drinking and cooking. We used to have colourless and odourless drinking water in our native. Here, the water is yellowish in colour and has the strong smell of chlorine,” M Vishnupriya, a resident of Choolaimedu said.

She added that the tap water supplied by the Metro Water was not good, and none of the residents in her apartment building use it for drinking.

This perception was also confirmed by the recent tests that the Bureau of Indian Standards conducted on quality of drinking water supplied by governments in the State capitals. It revealed that all 10 samples failed to meet the basic criteria, placing Chennai in the 13th position among 15 cities.

Colour, odour pose no risk

When asked, a Metro Water official said that the tap water supply in the city is intermittent and pressure in the pipeline is low. “Due to this, rusted iron particles would mix with the water making it yellow in colour. If there is a continuous supply, this problem would not happen. If the residents let the first few pots of water to run, they will get colourless water. The yellow colour is nothing but iron content in the water,” he said.

Assuring that the problem would be rectified after the Metro Water adds more sources and provides 24-hour tap water supply, the official added that chlorine odour, too, was not an issue.

“Chlorine is mixed with the water only to prevent diseases by killing microbes. If the water is kept in an open vessel, its taste and smell will normalise in 60 minutes, as the chlorine oxidises within that period,” the official said. He added that keeping tap water for a few hours would ensure that the sediments settle at the bottom of the vessel. Then, it could be boiled and filtered for drinking and cooking purposes.

Better quality, more accountability

The official explained that in the reverse osmosis (RO) process followed by packaged drinking water units, the membrane needs frequent cleaning. As it is an expensive procedure, many small units do not clean them often. Also, there is no accountability in their case, and no one knows from where they draw groundwater, he pointed out.

“Our water is 100 per cent safer water than the packaged drinking water, and we have accountability,” he said. The officials from Food Safety department added that some of the packaged drinking units in the city are not cleaning water cans properly and supply expired water to the customers.

Even while stressing that the water supplied by Metro Water is clean, the official admitted that there were cases of water contaminations reported from across the city. “We test the quality of water at the distribution stations every day and water leaving the stations is always clean. But contaminations occur due to damages in the underground pipelines. For 16 lakh water connections in the city, we receive less than 20 water contamination complaints per day,” he maintained.

When asked the reason for not taking action against the drinking water packaging units that supply substandard water, the official agreed that the Metro Water was not able to meet the requirement.

Meanwhile, pointing out what he termed was the hypocrisy of Metro Water that uses packaged drinking water cans (bubble top cans) in its premises, Karthikeyan, a resident of Kodungaiyur, said the senior officials should use their own water before asking the people to trust them.

“We buy water cans for drinking purpose in our house and private tanker lorry water for cooking purpose. We use Metro Water only for washing and bathing,” he said.

Corporation monitors water quality

Other than the Metro Water, the GreaterChennai Corporation, too, periodically checks the quality of tap water. “Sanitary inspectors in wards are testing four samples each per day. They check for chlorine content and intimate Metro Water officials if it is less. Whenever contamination occurs, we take appropriate measures to prevent diseases,” a Chennai Corporation official said.

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