MARIGOT–The Collectivité issued a press release on Sunday updating the population on the city drinking water situation.
The sanitary control of water intended for consumption is part of the responsibilities of the Regional Health Agency (ARS). In St. Martin, the search for bromates in drinking water does not seem to have been done to measurements made in May 2019.
The only existing measurements available to Etablissement des Eaux et de l’Assainissement de St. Martin (EEASM) are from sporadic tests carried out in 2010, when the measurement level was implemented by decree of January 21, 2010, amending the decree of January 11, 2007, concerning the programme for sampling and analysis of health control for water supplied by a distribution network.
While this may seem worrisome, as the production process has not changed since 2006, it is important to know that no major crisis related to the ingestion of bromates and the symptoms described by the ARS have been identified since then.
The current measures are therefore precautionary. New tests for the bromate level have already been ordered by EEASM with an urgent request for a shorter delay in receiving the results so that the necessary corrective measures can be adapted as quickly as possible.
EEASM is very concerned by this new data and is naturally engaged in improving the quality of water delivered to the population. However, studies of the impact on health by bromates at such low levels are scarce, as the phenomenon has been globally identified only recently.
As production systems and production conditions are the same in St. Martin and St. Barths, which experiences a similar bromate-related situation, EEASM had already asked its provider to allow self-monitoring of bromate levels and provide the technical means for these levels to comply with the applicable standards.
Concerning the analyses and deadlines, the material for immediate measures is now available locally in St. Barths where the investment has been made by a private laboratory. Also, it is important to note that levels recorded by the ARS in St. Martin in May 2019 are three times lower than those found in St. Barths.
In the short term, the physio-chemical parameters along the production and distribution chain of drinking water will be modified to reduce these bromate levels. In the medium term, EEASM has started a deep renovation of the production system with a deadline of eight months. The “bromate” date is naturally taken into account in this rehabilitation of the production process.
EEASM also intends to extend its partnership with the ARS to better utilise the exchange of information between the two structures, particularly those related to water quality tests, and to improve the alert system for the population and possible crisis management.
Bromates that develop over the distribution system are a direct consequence of the production practices and are a common element in all waters produced by desalination, and are thus more and more monitored all over the world.
The Collectivité, EEASM and water provider SAUR have immediately decided to distribute water to the most vulnerable populations (hospital, senior citizen’s home, schools and public services more generally). The means of distribution and beneficiaries may be adapted depending on the results and progress made to reduce these bromate levels. As from today Monday, distribution of mineral water will be made to the schools.
The public is invited to follow the press releases from the Collectivité and EEASM as the situation evolves.
As a reminder: the ban is on drinking water from the taps, cooking and brushing teeth. The water can be used for toilets, cleaning surfaces, washing clothes and dishes, and showers while being careful not to swallow it. There is no risk of absorption through the skin.
Meanwhile on the Dutch side, GEBE issued a press release on Saturday to reassure the general public that “the situation at hand is limited to the French side of the island and does not affect NV GEBE potable water.”
“Water in Dutch St. Maarten is produced independently from the French side of the island and does not have any bromates in the water,” the local utility company stated.
“There are absolutely no issues with water from NV GEBE and it is drinkable. Contrary to what you may read on social media, please note the water from NV GEBE is safe for normal consumption. NV GEBE Water Quality Control Department is aware; rest assured as a precaution NV GEBE has its water tested regularly in-house and by a third part laboratory on the island.
“This is prescribed by law and the Inspectorate of Health VSA is kept updated regularly on the quality of water that meets the required standards.”