Since December 2018, teams from the Bureau of Environmental Health and Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality have sampled water sources from 176 food service establishments in the CNMI and roughly 50 percent of those sampled revealed the presence of either total coliform or E. coli bacteria in their water.
Although the presence of total coliform in water is not harmful to humans, the sampling results show that the water supply on Saipan is vulnerable to bacterial and other contamination, said the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. in a statement.
E. coli, on the other hand, is harmful to humans and may result in illnesses that are possibly dangerous, depending on the strain.
These results have prompted the BEH to ink a memorandum of understanding with BECQ last Feb. 22 to improve water quality monitoring at food service establishments in the CNMI.
BEH and BECQ have agreed to combine their efforts to ensure that food establishments in the CNMI practice safe health and hygiene procedures.
According to a CHCC statement, the MOU was in response to findings regarding E. coli and total coliform bacteria during monitoring efforts after Super Typhoon Yutu hit the CNMI in late October 2018.
“These vulnerabilities pose a potential threat to the public health of the people of the CNMI via waterborne contamination that could potentially transmit communicable diseases and impact the sanitation of food handling and preparation,” CHCC’s statement said.
“This MOU provides guidelines for the coordination of activities between the two agencies, with the overall goal of identifying and minimizing microbial contamination to prevent food and waterborne diseases and to protect overall public health,” the CHCC statement added.
The MOU signing was dedicated to former BECQ Safe Drinking Water Program manager Jose Kaipat and was witnessed by CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña, BECQ administrator Eli Cabrera, and representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency.