St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Chief Medical Officer has categorically dismissed rumours that the recall of the most recent batch of Island Purified Water was due to the presence of fecal matter in a tested sample.
“I can categorically say that that is not correct and we must understand that coliform bacteria can be found in any aquatic environment,” Acting CMO Dr. Cameron Wilkinson told WINN FM Saturday (July 23, 2016).
“It is found naturally in the soil and it can be found on vegetation, but they are also present in large amounts in the feces of warm-blooded animals not just human beings…The coliform count is an indicator of the [sanitary state] of food and water, and this is what we usually test for when we’re examining to see whether or not water or food is of the proper quality, so the water that was tested failed the coliform test but this is in no way indicating the coliform came from human feces,” Dr. Wilkinson emphasized.
The higher than normal levels of the coliform bacteria were found during routine sampling, not because of reported illness, the CMO explained.
“As the advisory indicated, we’re doing this out of an abundance of caution in that there has not been any report of an increase in any diarrheal illnesses or any illnesses that we can associate with the drinking of Island Purified Water. I can tell you that I drink Island Purified Water several times a day, every day for the last several years, and I had my last bottle…yesterday, and after we’ve done our necessary investigations and the problem is addressed I will again begin to drink Island Purified Water.”
In the meantime Dr. Wilkinson is advising consumers to discard any Island Purified Water that they have, indicating that it is best not to use it even for cooking or washing dishes.
“The best advice I can give to you, is for you to discard the water that you have… because I believe it is easier for one to replace it than to take the risk of using it.”
The Bureau of Standards issued a statement Saturday morning, indicating that in its latest round of testing of bottled water in St. Kitts and Nevis, samples taken from Island Purified Water had failed the necessary testing.
It indicated that as a result, the Department of Environmental Health has initiated a programme to remove all bottled water produced the company within the last two weeks.
“The St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards do regular testing on food products or things that are consumed…including regular testing of bottled water, and one of the indicators that water is safe is…the coliform count…water is tested on a regular basis for coliform bacteria,” Dr. Wilkinson said Saturday.
“The testing that was done over the last several days showed that the level of coliform bacteria was above the normal level, and this is why we said that the water failed the test. Therefore the company was informed and several corrective measures were taken.”
The plant will be closed temporarily while those corrective measures are put in place.
“One always has to take corrective measures when there is a failure of a test like this and so the normal…corrective actions that were taken, one: the plant was closed, two: the plant was examined by the environmental officers, corrective measures will be taken. Further testing will be done to ensure that further production of water is safe and the water that we assume was produced within the period when they failed the test is being removed from the shelves,” Dr. Wilkinson said.
The Bureau of Standards is working with the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Ministry of Health to actively address the matter, and pledges to keep the public duly informed.
WINN FM understands that the company’s owner Mr. Leroy Powell who is currently off island, is trying to get home to assess the situation and make a statement.