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Do water refilling stations fully comply with water safety standards?

MANILA, Philippines - Seven out of 10 licensed water refilling stations in two key cities in Metro Manila do not fully comply with stringent drinking water safety guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure water safety and quality.

An informal survey revealed that, at the time of the sanitary inspection, 441 of 630 licensed water refilling stations in the said areas did not fully meet the stringent guidelines of DOH Administrative Order 2007-012 or the Philippine National Standards for Drinking Water.

More than 80 percent of the water refilling stations did not comply with DOH requirements that their personnel wear proper attire such as mask, hair net, gloves, and scrub suit to prevent water contamination while 35 percent of water refilling stations were not using the proper procedure for thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the water containers.

 To ensure their continuous business operation, water refilling stations need to secure a sanitary permit by passing stringent sanitary inspections which are periodically conducted by the city or municipal health officer, using a 20-item checklist equivalent to five points each, for a total of 100 points. 

Water refilling stations, however, only have to score at least 50 points to pass the sanitary inspection. Violations such as testing positive for bacteria in the output water or failure to properly sanitize the water containers only merit a five-point deduction. So, even if a water refilling station has tested positive for bacteria, it still has a good chance of passing the sanitary inspection with only a five-point demerit.

As a safety measure, households are encouraged to source their drinking water only from licensed water refilling stations who consistently and fully comply with DOH guidelines.

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Consumers are also advised to use solutions and products that purify water right before it is consumed at the household such as point-of-use water purifiers. Point-of-use purification systems are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as these solutions eliminate the risk of contamination from manual handling and transport of water containers.

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