Pumping iron: A tube well on a Dhatkidih school campus on Friday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Too much of a good thing is bad is an adage that makes perfect sense to iron.
If low iron content in blood results in anaemia, too much of the metal in drinking water puts people at risk of catching gastrointestinal and digestive problems.
Funded by World Bank, a survey done by Lucknow-based consultancy Env Developmental Assistance Systems India Pvt. Ltd in 12 Jharkhand districts revealed an ironclad and bitter truth — groundwater contamination in East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan is rife.
Findings for East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan, submitted to respective drinking water and sanitation departments last week, revealed most tube wells and hand pumps gave out reddish-brown water with iron way up to three times over permissible limits.
In January 2013, two villages each in East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan were surveyed. They included Potka and Jharia in Potka, East Singhbhum, and Dugni and Narayanpur in Gamharia, Seraikela-Kharsawan.
Permissible limit of iron in drinking water is 1NTU, but it varied from 2.5NTU and 3NTU in the four sample villages.
NTU or nephelometric turbidity units define the amount of suspended solids in water.
Arshil Prasad of Env Developmental Assistance Systems India Pvt. Ltd told The Telegraph that six and eight tube wells out of 20 each in East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan were found to have high iron content.
The findings were shared with the junior engineer of drinking water and sanitation department looking after the village, mukhiya, gram sabha members and residents. During the talks, officials were told iron removal plants in tube wells would salvage the situation.
Deputy superintendent of Khasmahal-based sadar hospital A.K. Lal admitted that drinking iron-rich water led to health hazards.
“There are many patients with digestive and gastrointestinal problems. Iron-rich drinking water leads to gastrointestinal tract infection and affects the central nervous system in the long run,” Lal said.
Executive engineer of drinking water and sanitation department (Jamshedpur circle) Raghunandan Sharma said findings had been sent to state department headquarters in Ranchi.
“Iron removal plants currently installed with tube wells in Garhwa, Sahebganj and Godda are also not giving desired results. I have recommended some upgrades,” Sharma said. “City areas under Jusco’s command are privileged as they get chemically treated water,” he added.
Iron is found naturally in underground water in many places. Manmade additions occur in water taken from corroded iron mains and pipes.