Uruguayan authorities are reviewing their options to tackle the presence of arsenic in faucet water in various towns nationwide, it was reported this week.
Environment Minister Adrián Peña explained three alternatives were being considered:
One is reverse osmosis, which is a little more expensive but is one of the solutions, he argued.
”Another is the installation of Water Purification Units (UPAs) both for the treatment of surface water and for the treatment of the groundwater itself that is extracted from the subsoil and later processed for drinking purposes.
And then there is also a system of absorption filters, which adheres the particles linked to arsenic and render the fluid apt for human consumption, Peña explained.
This is one of the issues of concern to the authorities and was discussed this Wednesday at a meeting between the Minister of the Environment, Adrián Peña, and the authorities of OSE.
Some 136,000 Uruguayans were reported to live across 163 towns nationwide where arsenic levels in the water have been found to exceed the 20 micrograms per liter limit, which will also be lowered to half that much by November.
When consumed in large quantities over an extended period of time, arsenic may cause certain diseases. But at the current levels, those risks were very low, according to Peña.
At the same time, the government is moving forward with the Arazatí project, which involves the construction of a new drinking water plant in San José.
Each locality is different in terms of the needs of treatment plants, the characteristics of the soil, the geology of the place and the works to be carried out, then the investments may change and the priorities also taking into account the cost of the investment in each locality, Peña added.
The minister said that the presence of arsenic in water was natural and the current situation does not constitute a contamination problem.
However, Peña warned about more than one hundred localities with subway water with arsenic levels higher than those allowed. He added that the Ministry of Public Health (MSP) had set a deadline, so in Peña's view in this year and a half the issue has to be solved, while insisting that the Ministry of Environment wanted to abide by the rules.
Daniel Panario, a science professor quoted by Montevideo's El Observador, said he does not consume tap water out of concerns over the possible presence of toxic products, even if they are within acceptable quantities.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prolonged exposure to arsenic through consumption of contaminated food and water can cause cancer and skin lesions, and has been linked to developmental problems, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes.