Water pollution goes unchecked: CAG
MUMBAI: Ninety-nine per cent of the sewage water generated by municipal councils and over 50 per cent of sewage discharged by municipal corporations goes untreated, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) said in its latest report.
Blaming rampant water pollution across the state on inaction by the government and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the CAG report said that the government had failed to take effective steps to compel local self-governments to treat waste water or effluents and permitted their raw discharge into the water bodies.
``The Maharashtra government has accepted that almost all the local bodies (in the state) have failed to provide necessary collection systems for the sewage or to set up sewage treatment plants,'' the report noted.
The CAG has not spared the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), either. The BMC has been constructing a sewage treatment project for the past 22 years, said the report, which was submitted to the Maharashtra legislature during its winter session.
The CAG report said Mumbai generated 2,562 million litres a day (MLD) of domestic effluents, of which only 929 MLD (36 per cent) was adequately treated. The major part, 1,633 MLD (64 per cent), remained untreated as on March 2000. Municipal waste water, inadequately treated as well as untreated, mixed with industrial effluents, was discharged through seven outlets. Of this, 1,595 MLD (62 per cent) was directly discharged into the Arabian sea and 973 MLD (38 per cent) was discharged into creeks that eventually merge with the sea.
It said that sea water in Mumbai region is highly polluted and unfit for bathing, water sports and commercial fishing.
A World Bank-aided plan__the Mumbai sewage disposal project__to overcome the problem was started by the BMC in 1979 and was expected to be completed by 2002. Pending its completion, the MPCB had given consent to the BMC to discharge the effluents into water bodies up to December 2004, the CAG report noted.
On the basis of the information furnished by the MPCB, CAG observed that the situation regarding the untreated effluents in all the municipal corporations was very alarming. It said that 12 corporations were discharging more than 50 per cent of the effluents into water bodies without any treatment at all. The MPCB did not maintain data on the effluents discharged by the 231 municipal councils across the state. Data obtained from ten of the 11 regional offices of the board indicated that the aggregate domestic effluents discharged by 219 councils was 1,050 MLD (as on March 2000), out of which only 14 MLD was adequately treated and the remaining 1,036 MLD (99 per cent) was discharged untreated. Only the municipal councils of Lonavala, Ahemdnagar and Pandharpur undertook some treatment before discharging the effluents into rivers.
The CAG report said that the situation was further compounded by the fact that most municipal corporations and councils hadn't even taken the first step towards complying with environmental legislation, nor had the state government or the MPCB ever enforced such compliance.
``The municipal corporations and councils are required to obtain consent from the MPCB before discharging polluting sewage into any water body,'' the report said. However, out of 15 municipal corporations and 219 councils for which the MPCB made the information available, 13 corporations and 218 councils did not hold a valid consent as on March 2000. As of the 15 corporations, ten had not even applied for consent. MPCB had not maintained any data on the councils that had applied for consent. Besides issuing notices to the offending bodies, the MPCB had not taken any action, the CAG report said.
Tap water chemical risky for pregnant women: Study
WASHINGTON: High levels of chlorination byproducts (CPBs) in drinking water put pregnant women at a higher risk for miscarriages or having children with birth defects, according to a study released on Tuesday.
The study, by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and US Public Interest Research Group, concluded that an estimated 137,000 women across the United States faced elevated risks during pregnancy because of contaminated municipal tap water.
According to the study, Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, had the most pregnant women at risk in an individual community or water system. Texas was worst on a statewide basis.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which provides water to Montgomery County, called the study fundamentally flawed.
"In our 84 year history at WSSC we have always met or exceeded every EPA regulation," WSSC spokeswoman Liz Kalinowski said. "We have never had a water quality violation in this organization."
She insisted WSSC drinking water was safe. "I speak from a unique perspective. I'm nearly six months pregnant and I drink our water every day," Kalinowski said.
Chlorine is added to tap water to kill microbes. The environmental groups said chlorine also reacts with organic matter, including sewage and animal waste from run-off, to form harmful CBPs.
"Dirty source water going into the treatment plant means water contaminated with chlorination byproducts coming out of your tap," Jane Houlihan, EWG's Research director, said in a statement. "The solution is cleaning up our lakes, rivers, and streams, not just bombarding our water supply with chlorine."
EWG and US PIRG called for immediate action to clean up the lakes and rivers that provide tap water to reduce the use of chlorination.
In the meantime, the groups suggested that pregnant women reduce exposure to CBPs by using carbon filters. "Pregnant women also might want to switch to non-chlorinated bottled water," Houlihan added.
"And, they should take shorter showers and baths, since CBPs can be in inhaled or absorbed through the skin," she said.
The Environmental Protection Agency had no immediate comment on the report.