BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour ordered the closure of all unlicensed water companies selling bottled potable water Thursday, a day after revealing that the water they supplied was contaminated and carried traces of sewage, ministerial sources told The Daily Star.

“Regardless of the quality of water being supplied and whether we have tested that water or not, these companies should be closed down because they are operating without a license to start with,” said Saleh Hodeifi, the ministry’s spokesperson.

The National News Agency said Abu Faour issued the decision on the basis of a legislative decree passed back in 1983, providing for the regulation of investments in water bottling.

It said the closure order was taken “in view of the proliferation of businesses and plants involved in bottling drinking water and selling it to the public without licensing and in violation of health standards.”

“Under the decision, the law enforcing agencies were asked to close down the drinking water plants and bottling centers which are not legally licensed by the Ministry of Public Health.”

Abu Faour said in TV comments earlier this week that around 800 unlicensed drinking water companies were operating in Lebanon and that 90 percent of the water they supplied is contaminated and contained traces of sewage.

Abu Faour also revealed that the state-supplied water was also contaminated because of the old and disintegrating water network.

The Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Authority denied Abu Faour’s report, claiming that the water it distributed is clean and free from any bacteria or chemicals.

“The water is clean according to results of tests carried out monthly on more than 1,000 water samples taken from different sources and water tanks,” the authority said in a statement, addng that water distribution networks are undergoing constant maintenance and renovation.

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