Aguas de Antofagasta to supply 65% of water from desalination plant

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chilean region II water utility Aguas de Antofagasta will increase supply from its desalination plant, paper El Mercurio reported.

Currently, 44% of water provided by the utility comes from its seawater desalination plant, installed in 2003, benefitting 150,000 clients. In October the percentage will increase to 65% of the community, reaching a total of 220,000 clients, the firm's environmental manager Alberto Cáceres said.

The initiative will reduce health risks to those who consume water extracted from the Toconce area, near the Andes mountains, which has high levels of arsenic. Due to the consumption of this water, lung and bladder cancer rates in the area are up to six times higher than the national average, the report said.

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In the meantime, the utility continues to use filters to lower arsenic levels in the water brought from Toconce.

Arsenic levels have dropped to 10mg/l, which is the level recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), vice president of the Antofagasta doctors association Hugo Benítez was quoted as saying.

Between 1958 and 1970, the arsenic level was 100mg/l. At that time, WHO recommended 50mg/l.

Filters began to be installed in 1970.

Now that levels are at a reasonably safe level, authorities hope to reduce the consumption of bottled water with a campaign to educate locals on the water's safety.