PHILIPSBURG–Managing Director of Seven Seas Water St. Maarten Franklyn Richards says the company complies with all the rules and regulations as well as with its contractual obligations as it relates to, amongst other things, testing the water produced for utilities company GEBE.
Richards was at the time responding to questions posed by The Daily Herald regarding the recent snapshot tests conducted on the drinking water distribution system in the country that show the pH levels are “fairly high,” which can affect the levels of chlorine in the water.
GEBE did not respond to this newspaper’s request for comment and Health Minister Emil Lee said a press release would be issued this weekend updating on the situation. It should be noted that the chlorine levels in the water were not found to be high during the snapshot tests, as was mentioned in the headline of an article that appeared on page 1 of this newspaper’s June 15, edition.
Richards said, “The official daily tests are taken every morning. The last results show that Seven Seas Water complies with all rules and regulations and contractual obligations.”
He said the pH is currently around 7 or just below – 5.5 to 6.5 – to get a better re-mineralisation of calcium carbonate (limestone) in the water.
Lee said on Wednesday that the snapshot tests were conducted after some hotels in the country tested positive for legionella and they began internal testing of the water they were receiving from GEBE and found “inconsistencies.” He assured that there are no public health risks.
Lee had said the positive legionella tests were fairly widespread and not contained to any particular location on the island. “Some hotels began testing water that they were getting directly to their property and found some inconsistencies. This triggered a discussion with the Inspectorate where we initiated a quick snapshot of water being distributed in St. Maarten,” Lee explained, stressing that he did not want to create hysteria in the country, as there were no public health risks.
He said authorities had engaged in dialogue with GEBE.
“There were some snapshot tests done. Normally this involves the distribution tanks, but we felt it important to see what was happening in the distribution system. There are parameters that are specified in the law and we found that some of these parameters are not being adhered to,” he said.
“One of the points of concern is the level of chlorine in the water. By law there is a certain minimum level and higher level of chlorine that should be in the water. The chlorine is a sanitizer. This is what is added to the water to ensure that we don’t get bacterial growth in the water and to ensure that the drinking water is safe for consumption.
“In addition, we also found that the pH level was fairly high. Although the pH level is not a public health parameter, one of the consequences of a high level of pH is that it will consume more chlorine so it would make maintaining proper levels of chlorine in the water an issue. So we’ve met with GEBE.
“We have expressed the findings of the snapshot evaluation of the distributions system and we have informed them that there were some concerns and … based on our meeting there were a number of agreements made particularly with regard to the testing of the water and with regard to the frequency of the sampling [that is done – Ed.] and to state that they must adhere to the guidelines and the parameters of the water in our distribution system.”