Equatorial Guinea: cutting-edge expertise for detecting water contamination

The Veolia Foundation collaborating with UNICEF.

Water resources are precious and the risks of pollution must be taken seriously. In Bata, in Equatorial Guinea, an explosion in a stockpile of ammunition led UNICEF to work with GE-Proyecto audit the quality of the water to identify possible pollutants. The agency relies on the expertise of the Veolia Foundation and the KWR (Netherlands).

In Bata, Equatorial Guinea’s financial capital, in the spring an explosion in an ammunition depot left the city devastated, with more than 100 victims, 700 injured and major property damage. To restore access to vital services, it is particularly important to ensure the quality of the water by checking that the resources have not been contaminated.

To this end, UNICEF, the organization in charge of issues of access to water and sanitation in a humanitarian crisis, turned to the Veolia Foundation and its Veoliaforce volunteers. One of them left with an employee from the KWR Water Research Institute, another UNICEF partner, to broaden the expertise made available.

Confronted with the extensive damage, it became necessary to verify that the chemical elements contained in the munitions had not polluted the rivers or the groundwater. Likewise, latrines and septic tanks damaged by the explosion can be a source of contamination. The task therefore consisted of taking samples in order to identify not just biological pollution (diseases) but also chemical pollution (ammunition residues, etc.). The objective is also to identify the presence of geogenic toxic substances in the groundwater (arsenic, fluoride, etc.).

To achieve this, the Foundation relies on all the Veolia Group’s resources. The Veoliaforce volunteer in the field was equipped with a mobile analysis laboratory to deliver initial conclusions on the quality of the resource. It was then the turn of Veolia's scientific and technological expertise department (DEST) to work on several months’ analyses based on the samples taken and sent in by the volunteer. This chain of skills, from the field to the laboratory, should enable UNICEF to fully accomplish its task of supporting the government in protecting vulnerable populations and particularly children. The partnership established with the Veolia Foundation is particularly relevant.