Another source of Keenjhar Lake toxicity exposed
KARACHI, April 21: High concentration of lead has been found in one of the water samples taken for analysis from the Keenjhar Lake and its surrounding areas after a drain feeding the lake turned toxic following a rain spell, preliminary results of the test show.
According to sources, the high level of lead in a section of the lake is due to oil contaminants being released by an oil depot and has nothing to do with the recent incident of toxicity in the drain.
Speaking to Dawn, Dr Mohammad Ahsan Siddiqui, a senior expert on water analysis carrying out the tests on the request of the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), said that water samples were taken from a windmill project site, the mouth of the drain and a portion of the lake from where water was supplied to the Jhimpir town.
“Initially, we have determined the levels of arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury compounds at these three points as they existed on April 18 when the incident was reported,” he said, adding that a detailed analysis was under way and complete findings would be available by next week.
According to Dr Siddiqui, chromium, lead and mercury levels at the windmill project site was found to be at 43.52ppb (parts per billion), 13.89ppb and 5.32ppb respectively.
Levels of chromium and lead were found to be at 1.88ppb and 9.46ppb respectively at the mouth of the drain. The level of lead in a section of the lake located about one and a half kilometre away from the drain was found to be at 333.33ppb. No traces of mercury were detected at both these sites whereas samples taken from the letter site didn’t show any trace of mercury.
The World Health Organisation’s recommended value for these compounds for drinking water is: lead (10ppb), chromium (50ppb) and mercury (1ppb).
“As one can see, the values are abnormal if compared with the WHO’s standards. However, a technically sound analysis of the situation could only be made with the help of complete results,” Dr Siddiqui said.
He expressed surprise over the high level of lead found in the lake (333.33ppb) as its level at the drain’s mouth was low (9.46ppb) and said that there was an urgent need for an investigation as this contamination had nothing to do with the recent incident of toxicity in the drain.
Immediate temporary arrangements, he said, should be made to prevent the drain’s water from entering the lake and that he had advised the same to the authorities concerned in a meeting on Saturday.
“I have also recommended suspension of water from the lake to Jhimpir town on emergency basis as well as a significant increase in supply of freshwater to the Keenjhar Lake. Hopefully, we would have good rains in coming days and if that happens the toxicity level at the drain would automatically reduce,” he concluded.
It is important to mention here that water supply from the lake to Jhimpir town, according to irrigation department officials, was suspended just a few day ago when the news of the drain contamination and animal’s deaths surfaced. And before the incidents, the contaminated water was being supplied to the town.
However, the irrigation department and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board have so far been denying contamination of the lake with drain’s toxic water.
High levels of lead in the human body can cause serious health problems, including kidney failure and brain damage, Dr Siddiqui said.