The contaminated water that affected the residents of  17 buildings in Changangkha and Motithang area is now safe to consume, according to Thimphu Thromde officials.

A thromde official said the water was contaminated on March 21.

“After receiving a complaint from a house owner the next day, we visited the site and took water sample for testing,” the official said. “We also asked the Thromde’s Motithang Tshogpa to inform the building owners.”

The thromde official said that he also informed the owners of the affected building the next day.

Thromde’s Motithang Tshogpa, Dorji Dema, said she got the information about the water contamination around 8pm.

“I was told that the affected area is between Hangers Store and Home Collection. It was not possible to inform every tenant, so I informed the house owners and asked them to tell their tenants not to consume water for a few days,” Dorji Dema said.

A house owner said that he did not know about the contamination and some of his tenants who got sick are still not well.

Dorji Dema acknowledged that some building owners might not have heard about the contamination because she couldn’t visit all the buildings in the area. “Some house owners did not open the door.”

“The exact affected area was not known then and it was not possible to go to every building as it was late and was also raining,” she said. “I got home around 10pm.”

The test result, after 24 hours, confirmed that the water was contaminated.

While the thromde officials claimed that they disinfected the reservoirs with chlorine after flushing the tanks and the main water lines, a house owner did not agree.

“Only the pipeline was flushed and the tank was disinfected. The water in the tank is already contaminated so the tank has to be cleaned rather than just flush the pipeline and disinfect the tank,” he said.

The thromde again tested the water after they flushed the tanks and pipelines and the test result showed that the water is now safe.

Another house owner, Kezang, said the tshogpa informed him about the contamination.

Kezang said that later, nobody informed him that his building’s water supply was not contaminated. He had been consuming mineral water for two days. “I learned that some of my tenants did not use the water from the tap to cook also.”

The thromde official said he also informed the affected buildings that the thromde will flush and disinfect the tanks and pipelines. “I saw some building owners had posted a notice on a wall cautioning people not to consume water for a few days.”

According to thromde officials, a contractor was carrying out the road development work in the area and an excavator had damaged the water pipe.

“The wastewater got inside the main water pipe, which then spread to the distribution lines of the 17 buildings,” he said. “The contractor did not inform us about it. We knew only when we received the complaint.”

The contractor, Tshewang, said the contamination happened when his workers were trying to divert the sewerage leakage towards the drain.

“It was raining and the sewerage was all over the road. We did not know that the excavator had damaged the water pipe. If we did, we will repair it,” Tshewang said. “I think there was a leakage in a joint of the main water pipe and the sewerage water might have got in through it.”

A thromde official said that when it comes to water supply, the thromde’s compliance is until the water meter point, after which, it is the responsibility of the house owners. “Because of the contamination, we went all out to help them because we were concerned about the safety of the people.”

About two building owners had hired private tank cleaners.

“Even after that, we visited the buildings again and disinfected the tanks and flushed the pipeline,” the thromde official said.

He said that some of the tanks had never been cleaned. “It is important for the house owners to clean their water tanks twice a year.”

A tenant of one of the affected buildings said the water smelled foul even after boiling. The colour of the water was dark and murky. “We still use mineral water for drinking.”

Some of the tenants suffered health issues like diarrhoea and vomiting.

The thromde official said the case was not severe like the one that happened in Changzamtok where most of the tenants in a building had to be admitted to the hospital.

The officials concerned are readying a report.

“Necessary actions will be taken,” an official said.

Thromde officials said they cannot guarantee that such things will not happen again because developmental projects are taking place every other day and most of the water lines and cables are under the ground.

An official pointed out that there is lack of data related to infrastructure. “Nobody is able to say that certain pipeline or cable go through a certain place.”

Dechen Tshomo