Warning over iron water tanks
Yemen’s rooftops are dotted with large water tanks, many of which are made of rusty, old iron.
Dr. Rami Al-Maqtari, a specialist in public health, said that the danger posed by the tanks depends on the condition they’re in.
Bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms are able to breed in tanks that are exposed to the air for periods of time, causing a number of health problems, including dysentery. Al-Maqtari added that children are especially vulnerable.
According to the doctor, as iron tanks age, the metal begins to react with the water, causing rust deposits. These deposits can be carcinogenic, he added, as well as causing damage to the kidneys. In less serious cases it may cause fungal infections or rashes. “Boiling the water can kill the microbes but it cannot get rid of deposits and sand,” Al-Maqtari explained.
“Fiberglass tanks are the best replacement,” he added.
Um Adel, 47, bought an iron tank 22 years ago, which is now in a very bad condition, lined with dirt and deposits. The water coming from the tank is yellowish and grimy.
When she bought the tank, she said she had no choice but to opt for an iron one. “All people had to buy such tanks,” she said, because there were no plastic tanks 22 years ago.
Seven months ago, Um Adel bought a plastic tank after she heard that it’s healthier and better made. “It’s really different. It keeps the water pure,” she said. “I can now cook using water from my new tank.”
In one of the many buildings in Sana’a that has iron tanks, the guard explained that like Um Adel, people there bought the metal tanks because fiberglass was not available at the that time.
“Now there is no intention of replacing them unless they break down completely,” he said.
In Sana’a, the government provides water, but when there is no electricity to pump the water – as often happens these days – residents resort to private suppliers, paying to fill their tank from a water truck.
Like the majority of old water tanks on the city’s roofs, these trucks are also made of metal – usually iron.
Ali Alazani, who owns a water truck, explained that he gets water from wells outside the city or in the suburbs like Bait Baws. However, he stressed that he has his truck cleaned every two weeks to ensure the water is safe.