Treated water for food outlets on Pulau Ubin

Two stalls selling cooked food on Pulau Ubin will no longer have to boil well water continuously for a minute before using it to cook, after water treatment systems were installed at their premises earlier this month.

Water from two of the systems has been tested and deemed safe for the preparation of food and drinks for sale.

The tests for treated water from a system installed at a third food establishment have yet to be completed, while a fourth system will be set up at another shop soon.

The four shops are major providers of food and drinks out of a total of seven licensed retail food outlets on the island of 38 residents.

This initiative was developed and coordinated by the Siglap Citizens' Consultative Committee and non-governmental organisation Corporate Citizen Foundation, with the support of Government agencies including national water agency PUB. The system, which costs around $7,000 each, is sponsored by engineering firm HSL Constructor.

In December last year, the National Environment Agency started requiring all food retail outlets on Pulau Ubin to boil well water continuously for at least a minute before using it to prepare food and drinks.

This was as testing samples of tap water had shown the presence of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and total coliform bacteria, which could lead to symptoms similar to food poisoning, such as diarrhoea or nausea.

News of the drop in water quality has caused business of stalls to drop about 20 to 30 per cent, said Madam Goh Sin Eng, 65, of eatery Sin Lam Huat, one of the food establishments that has installed the system.

While she expects utilities bills for the past month to increase slightly as they had to boil water that they used to wash raw food and utensils, she thinks the situation will improve. "People will have more confidence in the water here and will come," she said.

"People will have more confidence in the water here and will come," she said.

The island sees up to 300,000 visitors annually.

The new system works through a seven-stage process.

A strainer removes large particles and a 50-micron membrane filter removes smaller particles. Then, an activated carbon filter takes away contaminants and odour, and a 1-micron filter takes out micro particles and organisms.

A 0.01-micron ultra-filtration system then removes bacteria such as E. coli, and light sterilisers inactivate viruses and other micro-organisms.

Shop owners have agreed to take charge of the maintenance of these systems, including changing filters and flushing out sediments daily.

A tap will also be installed on each water treatment system so residents on the island can use and benefit from the treated water.

Maliki Osman - MP for East Coast GRC, which Pulau Ubin is a part of - said: "Agencies are looking at bringing water treatment units to Pulau Ubin and for them (residents) to have better access to potable water... There are longer-term plans for that but we wanted to see if we can help with interim solutions for businesses."

He added that an interim solution has been provided for the food outlets so that visitors "will feel more confident".

This article was first published on Feb 1, 2016.
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