As if the appaling condition of the Mula-Mutha waters weren’t enough, Puneites are now staring into the face of another menace: contamination of the city’s groundwater with fluoride and other heavy metals. The state government has, however, swung into action and ordered a regular chemical analysis of the water.

The Water Supply and Sanitation department of the state government conducts regular tests of the quality of drinking water. However, following the resolution issued on the first day of February, the government has now also ordered to check the water’s fluoride content as well as its PH value and metals like iron and manganese.

According to D P Deshmukh, desk officer of the department, “The Ground Water Survey and Development Agency (GSDA), Public Health Department and UNICEF had jointly conducted a campaign in the state in 2010-11, where four hundred samples, tested from among 15 districts, revealed that the sources of drinking water had an increased level of chemical components and contamination.”

Interestingly, the Central Pollution Control Board had released its findings on the Status of Groundwater Quality the same year, which said: “Twenty five ground water samples collected from the metropolitan city Pune during the year 2004 from various abstraction sources showed the fluoride content to be varying from 0.01 to 1.38 mg/L during pre-monsoon season and 0.01to 1.21mg/L during post-monsoon season.

The study has clearly indicated that hardness values exceeds the maximum permissible limit in about 4% of the samples while nitrate concentrations exceed the maximum permissible limit in 4% of the samples.”

The same report also said that the presence of fluoride in groundwater may be attributed to the localised effects of natural sources as well as to man’s activities. For instane, fluoride salts are commonly used in steel, aluminium, bricks and tile-industries.

Insecticides and herbicides, as well as phosphatic fertilizers, often contain fluorides, adding to the increased levels of accumulated fluoride in soil. This eventually results in its leaching due to percolating water, thereby increasing fluoride concentration in groundwater.

Even though the GR did not mention the study explicitly, it said that the following elements will be detected primarily in the groundwater’s chemical analysis — pH value (which determines the acidity or alkalinity of the water), Total Dissolved Solids, Fluoride, Nitrate and Iron. The data from this analysis will be uploaded regularly on central and state government’s websites.