The Guyana Water Incorporation (GWI) was on Monday ordered the halt of its usage of a potentially
dangerous chemical for countrywide water treatment purposes.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC), a governing body that ensures regulated utilities offer an efficient service to consumers, wrote the water company expressing concerns over the numerous media reports on its usage of the controversial chemical.
In the correspondence seen by Guyana Times, the PUC instructed the GWI to immediately cease the usage of the chemical “until a full and comprehensive review by an external agency confirms that it is compatible with existing safety standards.”
GWI in a statement to the press on Monday, conceded that it has been using the questionable chemical, but insisted that it is not harmful.
The chemical being used to treat the water is called Antinfek which contains the active ingredient Polyhexanide.
Guyana Times first reported that GWI was using the chemical, which not only Haiti refused to use but is without certification from the US National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and failed to demonstrate its ability to meet the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) limited protection microbiological performance targets.
Additionally, Director of the Government Analyst-Food and Drug (GA-FDD) Marlan Cole told another section of the media that the Antinfek chemical has negative reviews and has also not been tested or certified by the GA-FDD.
But GWI said the chemical is not dangerous, pointing out that it was tested by a number of other laboratories in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Switzerland, Ghana, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago and Germany, all showing favourable results in its use.
The water utility explained that chlorine is still being used as the sole disinfecting agent in all the treatment plants, while laboratory studies are being done on the use of other treatment alternatives.
GWI argued that it was found that the residual concentration of chlorine has a short life, thus does not protect the water from recontamination during prolonged storage, thus the move to use Antinfek as well.
Antinfek is manufactured by Dovebiotech Group of Companies which describes the chemical as a powerful organic bio-polymer-based compound, effective in decontamination of water against waterborne diseases, bacterium and fungi.
Internal communications show that the GWI Scientific Services Manager outlined that research suggests that the chemical was not recommended for approval for household water treatment distribution in Haiti, which had no NSF certification for drinking water use.
But, GWI in its statement argued that it was just one university which determined that the chemical was not safe for use in Haiti, which is insufficient to disregard its advantages altogether.
These reports have grabbed the attention of Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton who indicated to another section of the media that he will be seeking an explanation from GWI on the issue.