In 2013, at last, Bukidnon could run own water laboratory

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 3 Jan) – A project initially planned in 2004 will finally materialize in 2013 to improve the provincial government’s capacity to avoid outbreak of E. coli bacteria, according to the Provincial Health Office.

Engr. Florissa Adviento, chief of the Provincial Health Office’s environmental and occupational health services, told MindaNews Wednesday the provincial government will finally be able to buy the remaining equipment to build its own water analysis laboratory as its equity to an international grant for water quality in the province.

She said a budget of P150,000 was already included in the province’s 2013 budget to buy ultra-violet light instrument, vessels, and reagents to complete the laboratory.

“Considering there is a tendency of an outbreak in the province, we need to check for E. coli in the province’s sources of drinking water,” she added.

E. coli or Escherichia coli, a rod-shaped bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms, is said to be the most harmful of all bacteria.

But Adviento noted that this year’s project is only a step to water quality in the province as the laboratory covers only bacteriological analyses. The capacity to make chemical analyses, estimated in 2004 at P32 million, still has no funds.

“As a province with a lot of agro-industrial projects like plantations and poultry farms, it is important to check the chemical aspect of water quality, too,” she added.

Adviento said the laboratory is meant to help the province comply with its share in the country’s commitments to achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals, especially on ensuring environmental sustainability.

Among the 11 indicators of environmental sustainability is to cut by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation by 2015.

She said the province started to use portable microbiological laboratory (PML) in August 2012, after it acquired a grant from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the Department of Health to implement water quality monitoring.

For five months the province had conducted water analysis for E. coli bacteria and other waterborne diseases.

But Adviento said they were only able to reach 54 of about 260 barangays not yet covered by water districts where water quality testing is mandatory. Bukidnon has 464 barangays.

She said most of Bukidnon’s villages have barangay-based water systems only, which are more prone to E. coli.

She said the water laboratory project is part of its plan to empower the barangays to administer the sanitation of their own water systems for sustainability.

With a water laboratory, it is easier and faster to monitor water quality. Adviento said with PML they were able to process four water samples only in a day. The laboratory will enable them to process at least 50 for the same period.

Adviento cited that another grant extended initially for the water systems of 10 towns in the province via the Department of Interior and Local Government has improved the prospects of keeping water quality in Bukidnon. But eight of the projects are still “under construction” and two have “water source problems.”

The bacteriological capacity of the water laboratory, she said, could at least help PHO test all sources of drinking water in the province’s barangays every quarter.

From August 2012 onwards, they have tried to test more than once. Before that, it was only once a year, or worse in most barangays, none at all. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)