Three Weeks Without Water: The Crisis in Puerto Octay

LOS LAGOS – Potable water is now available in Puerto Octay. Residents had been banned from drinking their tap water for nearly three weeks after the local water system was determined to be contaminated. Approximately 70% of the local population was affected.

Residents of Puerto Octay received the “all-clear” to resume drinking their tap water on Oct. 1. This follows a 20-day period during which tap water consumption was suddenly banned due to contamination. The incident affected 2,800 residents.

Authorities originally predicted lifting the ban on Sept. 30, but the lift was delayed a day so that more tests could be completed.

Ensuring 100% Safety for Puerto Octay

According to Cooperativa, the superintendent of Los Lagos, Harry Jürgensen, said on Sept. 30 that, “tomorrow we will have the definitive answer of today’s samples.” The government took careful measures to ensure that the water in the area was no longer contaminated before announcing that it was safe to drink.

The water system in the area was accidentally contaminated by hydrocarbon diluents, according to the mayor. These chemicals are used to thin liquids to make them easier to transport. The most well-known diluent is paint thinner which is extremely hazardous to human health.

For the Los Lagos region, it is the second water crisis in less than three months, after in July nearly 200,000 people in the city of Osorno were without drinking water over 1,000 liters of oil leaked in a water supply.

Osorno Water Crisis: 180,000 People Hope to Have Drinking Water This Week

Not Just A Health Issue

The residents’ main concern during the drinking water ban was education, because classes in the region were halted due to the ban.

Speaking to La Tercera, Puerto Octay mayor María Elena Ojeda said that when class suspensions are due to emergencies, there is no obligation to recover them, but in this instance there is an intention to recover in order to give students “the security to face the tests ahead of them.”

The Residents’ Own Fault?

El Austral reported four years ago that 90% of Puerto Octay residents were not paying “the bill for the water they consume.” Underfunding may have been among the issues affecting water maintenance in the area that led to the most recent contamination crisis.

Secretary of the Regional Ministry of Health Scarlett Molt confirmed that plans to monitor water quality in Puerto Octay will continue as part of the effort to guarantee that the water remains potable.

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