Residents plead for help as gift water turns into poison

Residents of Silale in Tiaty, Baringo County have developed health complications after using water from the borehole that was drilled by World Vision Organization in 2015. [Photo by Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Residents of Silale in Tiaty constituency were overjoyed when an NGO drilled a borehole in the area in 2015.

The NGO had heeded their cry for help to end perennial shortage of water in the semi-arid region, which forced the residents to travel long distances in search the commodity.

However, when the water gushed out of the borehole, locals realised that it was not exactly what they had thirsted for for years.

The water, which quickly formed a rivulet down the hilly terrain, was steaming hot and had high levels of fluoride.

But with no other source of water, and with the drought biting, they had no option but to take the "poison".

“The water is hot and salty but we have no choice and use it for cooking, drinking and even watering our animals because it is the only source available in this area,” said Cheksuku Lodinya, a resident.

Lodinya has rashes on her body which she blames on the water. And she is not alone, many have a similar problem.

But this is perhaps the mildest of the complications blamed on the water.

Many children have swollen stomachs which, according to parents, they developed after drinking the borehole water.

“They develop stomach problems when they drink the water. Their stomachs swell and they sometimes diarrhoea,” said Lodinya, whose three children have distended stomachs.

The mother says despite the water being hot she always boils it before drinking or giving it to her children. But this does not help much.

Those who choose to take the water directly from the tap are forced to use containers to cool it.

“The water is extremely hot and cannot be taken directly. Every child has a container that they use to cool the water before they quench their thirst,” said Chesisoi Lonyang’pat.

Blurred vision

“Most people in this area have rashes on their bodies. Our skins are cracked from using the salty water and our vision blurred,” added Lonyang’pat.

And that is not all. Some pregnant women claimed to have suffered complications after consuming the water.

Chemkea Chemken said she miscarried after drinking the salty water.

“I was having my second pregnancy when the tragedy happened. I drank water from the borehole without boiling it as I used to and it cost me my baby,” said Chemkem.

Stephen Sapan, Riong’o dispensary nursing officer in charge, said five cases of miscarriages had been reported in the area in the past five months.

The nurse attributed the miscarriages to the high fluoride levels in the water, which affects proper formation of the baby.

“We have had more than five cases in the past few months. We attribute the cases to the high fluoride levels because most mothers lose their babies after drinking the salty water,” said Mr Sapan.

Farmers also claimed to have lost hundreds of livestock after giving them water from the borehole.

Tepangoria Samich said he had lost more than 60 goats since 2015.

“My goats have been dying every year after drinking water from the borehole. I have lost my main source of income and wealth,” he said.

According to the farmers, the animals' stomachs became swollen before they dropped dead.

“The goats’ stomachs got bloated and they were unable to pass stool before they dropped dead,” said Mr Samich.

He added that most residents develop kidney stones after using the salty water.

Sapan added that most residents had complained of having difficulties when passing urine.

“I have also received complaints from some people that the water has affected their sex lives,” said Sapan.

The residents urged the Government to come to their rescue and make the water safe.

“This water is killing our people instead of helping to curb drought. Something should be done before we suffer more damage.”

Baringo County CEC for water Joel Koima said plans are afoot to build a water treatment plant in the area.

“The entire Tiaty is volatile and that has caused the high fluoride levels in the water. We are making plans to ensure the water is treated before the residents can use it,” said Koima.