Testings of water quality on Ambae by the Department of Water Resources (DoWR) due to Volcanic ash shows there is no threat.

The main sources of water tested and sampled were from rain water catchment systems and ground water (ground dug wells and boreholes) covering the North, West, East and Southern part of the island.

The testing made recently on Ambae targets volcanic ash and the main chemical leachates that could pose major health threats to the people that consume the water.

Erie Sami, Acting Manager of the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit under DoWR has dismissed claims reported on Radio New Zealand Pacific news few days ago saying, “all our results show very low Fluoride and Sulfate levels which we were concerned could pose a major threat to the people”.

He was not in favour of some of the scientific terms used to criticise water on Ambae because he said they are misleading and very inaccurate when it comes to testing of quality water.

“I wonder how the term sulphur nitrate was used in the article.

“This term exists nowhere when it comes to testing quality of water.”

Mr. Sami said fluoride and sulfate are important when taking into account the health of human beings and their results shows no threat.

“All our samples from the different sites tested at Vanuatu Services Engie shows that the fluoride and sulfate levels is low and poses no health threats for the people and this meets the Vanuatu national standard of drinking water and World Health Organisation (WHO) standard.”

The normal Vanuatu and WHO standard for fluoride in quality water is 1.5 mg/L (milligrams per litre) and sulfate is 250 mg/L and test results achieved by DoWR all ranged between 0.04 mg/l to 0.66 mg/l for fluoride, the highest for sulfate for Ambae water is 15mg/l.

In terms of PH the normal PH of rainwater itself is around 5.6.

Results from Ambae rainwater catchments show that the lowest PH to be recorded so far is 3.8.

“Note that PH varies with the material of the tank.

“If it is a poly tank then you will have low PH, if it is a ferro-cement tank then you will have high PH,” Sami said.

He said the results and tests show that the volcanic ash activities on Ambae is recent compared to Ambrym and Tanna island where people have been living with the volcanic ash for many years back.

“The Ambrym case and Tanna is worse than Ambae because they experienced very high levels of fluoride from some of their water sources but they still live with that.”

However; Mr. Sami agreed that there would be major contamination in some sources that is not well protected due to the heavy ash fall and would result, over time, in high level of fluoride.

His best advice is for the people of Ambae to use coral and sand to treat drinking Water with low PH and to use the Downpipe First Flush Water system for those using rain water catchment to improve water quality.

“Acid rain is another issue. Avoid swimming in Acid rain and catching rain water that forms from clouds close to the volcano. Only catch rainwater that forms from clouds close to the sea.”

Rod Newell who has been living in Vanuatu for a very long time and provides service for the Red Cross Society told Daily Post that he had just returned from Ambae collecting samples and testing water and said there was no threat on water as what many people claimed in the media.

Newell asked those speculating to be more specific as to where exactly that water was contaminated and what is its contamination?

Sami warned Ambaens to always take pre-caution measures when fetching water from the different water sources and to always follow key messages released by DoWR via different media outlets.

He also called on independent specialists who are conducting water tests on Ambae to always consult with DoWR for proper verification of their results to avoid misleading information to the members of the public.

DoWR will continue to monitor the water quality for Water Sources of Ambae and will advise if any of the tests is contaminated by ash fall, said Sami.