Saturday, April 20, 2024

Preliminary study finds San Mateo water “contaminated”


The San Mateo community has been deprived of basic infrastructure for many years; these basic infrastructures include electricity, proper road and drainage systems and most importantly, clean potable water. The San Mateo community is back in the news after a recent preliminary report from a US based university confirmed that tests show that the water in the San Mateo Subdivision are contaminated.

“Engineers without Borders-USA” sent a group of students from the Texas A & M University to conduct a reconnaissance trip in January of 2012 during which they conducted a three part evaluation of potable water in the San Mateo Community. These evaluations included water quality field tests, water and sewer infrastructure assessment and a water quality survey. The alarming results confirmed what many have suspected for years.

The report states that “the bacteria, coliform, found in the water, can be linked to feces; thus we believe it is due to the inadequate handling of sewage in San Mateo.” The source of water tested was from the water pipe distribution system as well as rainwater catchment system. According to the preliminary report, there exists a high possibility of acquiring a waterborne illness from consuming water from either water sources. Those at risk are particularly infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a weak immune system.

The preliminary report is disturbing news to the already marginalized community of San Mateo. The report states that, “Our spot testing of water taps showed irregular contamination. Some taps provide contaminated water at times and not at other times. This is likely due to the current design, operation, and maintenance of the piped system. As the water distribution lines pass through sewage contaminated surface water, the erratic pressure (including no pressure) in the lines likely results in variable contamination of the entire system.” The report analysis indicates that the current San Mateo water distribution system is “inadequate” and is a problem that cannot be easily fixed.

The report further recommends that the community “stop using the rain and tap water for drinking” immediately. It recommends that the community start purchasing purified drinking water. It also recommends that the use of rain or tap water for the preparation of infant cereal/formula should also be immediately discontinued. Where the residents of San Mateo cannot buy water, the report recommends that they should treat rain or tap water by bringing it to a rolling (or angry) boil in a clean container for one minute. When it is impractical, household chlorine can be used carefully with the correct treatment techniques.

The recommended solutions given by the group are just temporary and according to the students, were provided at a request due to the “exigent nature of the current health situation.” The EWB-TAMU team stated that they are “evaluating potential after tap filtration/treatment techniques that would provide appropriate solutions for the water in this community.” These recommendations will be included in a future report that the group is looking forward to submitting by April 2012.

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