By Hana Namrouqa – Jan 24,2018

AMMAN — Lab tests showed that water of the Lahtha spring in Tafileh does not contain “worrying pollutants”, dismissing local residents’ claims that “the poisonous water killed their sheep.”

Results of lab tests conducted by the Royal Scientific Society and the Ministry of Health on samples from the spring showed that there are no “worrying” chemical pollutants in the water, but indicated that turbidity levels are high, according to Environment Ministry Spokesperson Isa Shboul.

“Although the water of the spring doesn’t contain poisonous substances, it has now been labelled as unfit for consumption or use,” Shboul told The Jordan Times.

The water of the spring “has always been undrinkable”, but the residents of the area used it for irrigation and for their animals, Shboul said, noting that the water is now declared unfit for such purposes due to high turbidity.

The Environment Ministry dispatched a team of inspectors to Lafarge cement factory in Tafileh after area residents claimed last week that their sheep died after drinking water from the Lahtha spring, according to Shboul, who said that members of the local community also claimed that Lafarge cement factory was allegedly disposing off “waste” in the spring.

The ministry’s inspection team discovered that the factory had left “huge piles of jift” laying out in the open within its property, Shboul said, noting that the fluids of jift could have leaked and reached the spring.

Jift, olive leftovers after pressing, is a substance that has become a common fuel substitute, according to Shboul, who said that the factory uses the substance to fuel its furnaces.

In a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times on Wednesday, Lafarge Jordan said that it has stored some olive residue shipments temporarily in its old limestone quarry which is fenced and secured in order to have the shipments transferred to Rashadiyeh cement plant later on upon need.

The company underlined that it does not dispose off any waste material in any area undesignated for waste disposal, stressing that it believes that “there are other waste contributors to the change of Lahtha water colour not related to olive residue.”

The company said that it has secured all necessary approvals from authorities in that regard, underlining that the limestone quarry is far away from Lahtha water with a distance of more than 1.5 kilometres.

Shboul noted that while results of the collected samples did not show that the cement factory has contaminated the spring, the ministry is “closely monitoring the factory’s use and storage of jift”.

He noted that the use of jift must occur in a regulated manner that does not create any pollution for the environment, surface and ground water.

“The ministry is inspecting the use and storage methods of the substance,” he said.

“After receiving claims from [the] local community, we decided to transfer the olive residue from the quarry area to the plant to eliminate any potential impact that the rains could take traces from the olive residue material towards the Lahtha water…,” Lafarge Jordan said.

The company also stressed in the statement that it has gained all permits required to use alternative fuel, including olive residue, and that the local community and stakeholders were consulted before using any alternative fuel.

“We are strongly committed to environment protection as well as to health and safety and we enforce international standards in that respect…, we are being monitored by all respective authorities and we comply with all regulations,” Lafarge Jordan said, indicating that the company’s emissions are monitored by the Ministry of Environment around-the-clock.

The company operates two cement factories in Jordan, one in Fuheis, 10km west of Amman, and another in Rashadiyeh in Tafileh Governorate, which is 180km southwest of the capital.

The Rashadiyeh cement factory was established in 1983 by the original company, the Southern Cement Company, which was merged in 1985 with the Jordan Cement Factories Company, which, in turn, was subject to privatisation and bought by Lafarge.