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By Ennio Kuble and Ruth Konia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 23, 1998-Niuswire/The National)---Popular Ela Beach and its adjacent waters are polluted by a harmful bacteria strain which can cause ailments ranging from skin irritations to dysentery and typhoid.

The bacteria has been confirmed by laboratory tests conducted by the Health Department to be consistent with those that are commonly found in human waste.

There is a very strong link, according to officials from both the National Capital District Health Division and the Health Department, to raw sewage from the city pouring out of seven outfalls located all along the sea-front.

The laboratory tests of water collected daily from various points along the beach and the Fergusson Harbour area between December 1997 and this month indicate a strong presence of fecal coliform at 1,000 parts to every 100 milliliter of water at some points.

The pollution in the capital's only beach front is five to ten times more than the World Health Organization recommended safety limit in recreational waters, which is 100-200 parts of this particular bacteria to every 100 milliliters of water.

Deputy Chief Health Surveyor of NCDC, Robin Yanopa, told The National: "Pollution is certain along Ela Beach and we suspect that certain other areas are also polluted.

"There is no speculation."

Nick Kuman, the Chief Health Surveyor, added that this bacteria comes from human waste.

Since November last year, Ela Beach and other water front areas in the vicinity have been declared out of bounds and people warned to stay out of the water.

Fish and marine food such as shells from the area may also cause sickness because of the high concentration of fecal coliform.

Eda Ranu, the company responsible for the NCDC water and sewerage system, admitted that one part of Ela Beach -- near Koki Point towards Koki Village -- was heavily polluted.

In other areas, Eda Ranu maintains that the pollution is within "permissible range."

Eda Ranu also strongly opposed accusations that raw sewerage was being dumped into the sea. Its management claims that all sewage goes through primary decomposition from the pipes right down to the pumping stations before being discharged.

So far no disability has been traced directly to the pollution at Ela Beach although the Port Moresby General Hospital has treated cases of typhoid and dysentery.

WHO has no specific guidelines on coastal water quality for recreational purposes but has established an interim quality criteria for Mediterranean coastal waters which are sensitive to the demands of tourism.

Those criteria allow 100 fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters for up to 50 per cent of the samples taken and 1,000 fecal coliforms up to 10 per cent of the samples.

The Environment and Conservation Department's recommended water quality standards for recreational and aesthetics uses in both fresh and marine waters is bacteria content of 200 fecal coliform per 100 milliliter.

Starting in October, NCDC collected water samples while testing for micro-organisms was done by technicians at the National Public Central Laboratory at the Port Moresby General Hospital.

The readings were 1,000 bacterial content per 100 milliliters of water tested.

Tests done to samples collected early this month have reached as high as 1,500 parts per 100 milliliters.

WHO and local health officials said that the level of fecal coliform can cause diseases such as typhoid, diarrhea, poliomyelitis and skin infections.

Technicians said water samples were collected from 40 to 50 areas of the identified beaches and pollution may have extended up to 500 meters from where the samples were collected.

Other possible sources of pollution are waste dumped into the storm drains and coastal villages disposing their waste into the sea.

Title -- 1203 ENVIRONMENT: High pollution at Ela Beach Date -- 23 February 1998 Byline -- Ennio Kuble and Ruth Konia Origin -- Niuswire Source -- The National (PNG), 23/2/98 Copyright -- The National Status -- Unabridged

This document is for educational and personal use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source for reprinting. This service is provided by Journalism Studies, University of Papua New Guinea. Please acknowledge Niuswire: niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.pactok.net.au/docs/nius/

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