In a bid to strengthen the production of pure and safe drinking water, the Sierra Leone Standards Bureau (SLSB) has stepped up standards for quality packaged water production in the country which every water manufacturing factory is expected to comply with.
This was made public at the British Council Hall, Tower Hill in Freetown, Wednesday May 21 2014. Delivering her speech the manager, Food Microbiology Laboratory SLSB Isatu Binta Kamara said the one day water sanitation training for packaged water producers organized by Focus 1000 and supported by UK Aid, GoSL, UNC Water Institute among others, the forum did not only attract water producers but also government officials and Kombra Media Network.
This training was organized in line to put an end to the spread of water borne diseases like cholera, diarrhea and many more in the country. According to Madam Kamara they have also designed standards for food technology, code of hygiene practices and a specification for natural mineral water, a development she said they as a life saving institution will never compromise with, and made it clear that standards for packaged drinking water was established by SLCB in consultation with the university of Sierra Leone, adding that packaged water produced and sold must meet the minimum quality standards set by SLCB.
She further explained that packaged water producers must endeavor to test the quality of their raw water source to determine the level of treatment necessary to produce eminent water that is in line with the standards and continued that any packaged water that does not bear SLCB seal on its surface will be viewed as violating the standards, which she said has become a thing of the past. Madam Kamara explained that the training will serve as a platform for participants to pass on the message to those who are not fortunate to attend the meeting; but she was quick to plead to the organizers for more workshops for other people to equally benefit from and she expressed gratitude to Focus 1000 for organizing what she described as a participatory workshop.
In his statement, the CEO of Focus 1000, the initiator behind the whole process, Alhaji Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, affirmed that even the government of Sierra Leone knows the companies that produce good drinking water and those that do not, adding that as of now any water manufacturing company that fails to produce pure, safe and clean drinking water will be suspended or closed until he/she complies with the system because according to him water is life, and the life of individual is very precious.
Mr. Jalloh further described producers of water as best people to regulate the water system. He therefore urged producers to adapt the standards before SLSB visits them in their factories. The CEO also called on the media to work in collaboration by disseminating the messages discussed and he also raised the need to inculcate religious groups to take the campaign in their mosques and churches and also thought of involving teachers as stakeholders. Mr. Jalloh concluded by promising to spread the awareness across the country.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) the deputy Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Sarian Kamara expressed happiness for seeing women in the business of water and called for more women to join the bandwagon. She stated that the training is geared towards capacitating water business people to get an understanding on the new measures that government put in place. She showered praise on SLCB for what she described as a good entry point to save lives adding that if our drinking water is contaminated it is a recipe for the spread of water borne diseases.
Taking the podium, the acting Environmental Health Manager, MoHS Dr. Ansumana Sillah spoke on the guidelines for the manufacturing of safe and clean drinking water. He pointed out that the objective of the training is to educate, inform, and assist packaged water business producers to comply with standards, rules, and best practices set forth, adding that the premises and facilities should not be sited in an environmentally polluted area. He went further to disclose that the production facility should be large enough to allow employees enough room to move free and safely, he dilated that the floor of the room where water is produced should be waterproof, non absorbent, and non slippery.
Mr. Sillah mentioned that packaged water business must provide at least a functioning toilet and a hand washing facility inside or directly outside the toilet.
Responding to conclude the forum, the package water producers were unanimous that the purification cost of water is too high, adding that the quality of plastic and the cost of the machines are also very expensive, but the Environmental Health Officer Mr. Ansumana responded that if the cost of the machines requires political action before their prices can be reduced then definitely the government will consider what to do.