GGMC to work with GWI, EPA to probe mercury in Kaituma River

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) will be partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) to investigate the reported high levels of mercury found in the Kaituma River, GGMC Commissioner Newell Dennison says.

GWI has said that tests that were done May found high mercury content in the Kaituma River, making it unsafe for use. As a result, it has ceased pumping the water to residents and plans to activate two wells in the community at Turn Basin and at Citrus Grove.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Dennison said, “This situation… is something we intend on investigating and to collaborate with the GWI and the EPA in that investigation because we would want to, as far as possible, determine at least what the levels of mercury contamination is—if there really is—and to see what mitigating measures we can put in place to treat that.”

He said that the first thing they will do is to investigate the information the water company has been communicating and to try to assess the holistic picture. “We all know that mercury is a big issue, the use of mercury in mining is a big issue and we have been going out with our Mineral Processing Division and our Environmental and Mines Division and educating as far as possible on the code of practices for using mercury and also trying to reach out for alternatives of using mercury for the extraction of gold,” Dennison said, while emphasising that collaboration between the relevant agencies is going to start as soon as possible. “We intend to respond and to collaborate with GWI and the EPA to investigate the matter,” he added.

At a press conference on Wednesday, GWI Managing Director Dr Richard Van West-Charles had restated that GWI has done some analysis of samples taken from the river and the results have shown levels of 0.016mg/L, which is more than the accepted World Health Organisation (WHO) 0.006mg/L standard.  He explained that they are currently taking samples from other areas upstream and downstream in Port Kaituma, and will also be testing the fish to ascertain the levels of mercury in the river.

He noted that GWI has also been communicating with the regional administration as well as the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) and has been working along with them to rehabilitate the two wells so that the residents will be able to have a safe and reliable supply of clean water.  

“We’ve had discussions with them about the Mabaruma Settlement and that’s about 600 persons living there. We are going to be addressing that problem with a solution in another four to five weeks. In terms of Matarkai and Matthews Ridge, we are also going to be looking at two wells in the Arakaka area which have been identified and need further development and that has been in collaboration with the NDC,” Van West-Charles added.

While the first tests were done in May, he explained that it was only recently made public since they wanted to do additional tests to have a more accurate idea of the mercury levels in the river.  

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