The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has shut down its treatment plant at Kyebi in the Eastern Region due to the pollution of the Birim River by illegal miners.
For the past four days, Kyebi has not been supplied with water for human consumption.
The Birim River is the main water body in the area from which the GWCL pumps water to Kyebi and the numerous communities around it.
Previously, the GWCL had complained about the high turbidity of the waters of the river making it very expensive for treatment for human consumption.
Apart from that, the GWCL earlier raised the alarm of its equipment getting damaged should the company continue to pump water through the machines.
The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Abuakwa South, Akosua Asabea Annoh, who announced the stoppage of the flow of water to Kyebi, expressed concern about the issue, adding that such a dire situation had occurred because of the pollution of the Birim River due to the activities of the illegal miners.
Anti-galamsey task force
The MCE made the announcement at the launch of an anti-galamsey task force of the Ghana National Association of Small-Scale Miners (GNASSM) operation to halt Chanfang on the Birim River at the forecourt of Ofori Panin Fie at Kyebi, yesterday.
The event was attended by traditional rulers, officials from the Minerals Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the members of the GNASSM.
It was a collaboration among the GNASSM, the Minerals Commission and the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT).
No water pollution
According to the MCE, since it was the illegal miners who had brought about such a problem, the association's task force should ensure that those given the licence to operate did not pollute the river and at the same time prevent those without licence from operating.
Mrs Annoh further asked the task force members to also ensure that those given the licence operated at only the concession given them.
In doing so, the MCE cautioned the licensed miners to operate within the required mining regulations as prescribed by the Minerals Commission.
She, however, assured the task force of the assembly's support, as well as that of nananom.
The Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, who was not happy about the state of the Birim River, bemoaned the unfortunate situation facing the people in the area, who for the past four days could not get good water to drink.
“Now children, women and elders are suffering because there is no good water to drink, as well as wash things, at Kyebi just because the Birim River is heavily polluted as a result of the activities of the illegal miners.
"Because of money that some individuals get from illegal mining, the whole community is suffering because the GWCL is not able to pump water to the people and this must stop," the Okyenhene told the gathering.
The Okyenhene was, however, happy that the task force would start navigating the Birim River to prevent the illegal miners from using Chanfang to wash the minerals in the river.
He called for the arrest and prosecution of people who engaged in illegal mining in the four mining communities Kyebi, Anyinam, Asamang Tamfoe and Osino.
The Vice-President of the association, Sampson Kofi Wiredu, for his part, advised the task force not to discriminate in its operations and that anybody found polluting the river should be arrested and properly dealt with according to the law, to serve as a deterrant to others.
He pointed out that it was only in such a direction that the Birim River would be cleaned for human consumption.
Mr Wiredu also appealed to the chiefs and the police to prevent all those who would make an attempt to block the operations of the task force.
Miners not trained
The Vice-Chancellor of the UMaT, Professor Kwasi Amankwaa, said rivers were being polluted because most of the miners were not trained, particularly to use excavators properly.
He, however, expressed the hope that the police and the chiefs would support the task force in their operations to ensure that the right thing was done to make the Birim River clean.
Prof. Amankwaa gave an assurance that a base-line study on the purity of the waters of the Birim River would be conducted every two months to find out whether it was suitable for human consumption.
The Deputy Eastern Regional Police Commander, COP Emmanuel Twumasi Ankrah, gave an assurance of the police support to the task force and advised them to go by the rules governing the operations of the task force.
When the Daily Graphic contacted the Eastern Regional Office of the GWCL, the Public Relations Officer (PRO), Kwadwo Daase, said the treatment plant supplying water to Kyebi and its environs was shut down from Friday, November 18 to Tuesday, November 22, 2022 because the turbidity of the water in the Birim River rose to 3,800.
He said with such high turbidity, the plant could not treat and pump water to its consumers.
According to the PRO, the treatment plant was reopened because the turbidity level had gone down to around 300 Nephelometric Turbidity (NTU).
Mr Daase explained that the acceptable level of the turbidity of the water for treatment was around 200 NTU.