OXFAM ENGINEERS have arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reinstate water supply in the town of Goma following the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo last week.
Lava began to flow on Thursday morning, sweeping through Goma and into Lake Kivu in three separate flows up to 500m wide and 2m deep. Almost half the town was destroyed and up to 500,000 people were forced to seek refuge in neighbouring Rwanda and on the banks of the lake.
With the immediate danger passed, most of the town's population has returned, making the restoration of safe, treated, drinking water the top priority.
Before the eruption, Goma had a robust water supply system following previous Oxfam work in 1994 when 2M Rwandan refugees set up camp around the town.
Engineers from Oxfam and engineers disaster relief charity RedR, will assess the state of the system after the eruption, paying particular attention to the source - Lake Kivu.
'The majority of the town was already supplied by a 'proper' system with pressure filters, retention tanks, chlorination and a pumping station, and this has not been damaged, ' said Oxfam public health technical coordinator Paul Sherlock.
'But the real question is whether the existing plant can adequately treat what is now in the lake.'
Treating water from Lake Kivu is already complex, with its natural pH of 9 making it difficult to achieve a sufficient contact time for chlorination.
The team will collect data which will be fed back to the Centre for Environmental Health at Surrey University, which will help devise suitable treatment.