High chemical and alkaline levels have recently been found in Ethiopian waterways, Tikur Wuha River and Hawassa Lake, near the Hawassa textile industry, causing a rise in temperature and pH levels and threatening the local environment.
According to a report conducted by the chemistry department at Arba Minch University in Ethiopia, waste water was being released directly into drains that connect the industry to the main drainage network and to the Tikur Wahu, which flows into Lake Hawassa.
Water samples analyzed showed that textile effluents were blue or black in color and had a strong odor. The water temperature was between 17.80 ?C (64.04 ?F) and 25.75 ?C (78.35 ?F) with a pH level between 8.080 and 11.21.
“These are the most frightening values and cause a real threat to the environment. The recorded pH values in waste water of Hawassa Textile Factory before and after treatment were found above guideline permissible limit of EIA process. These could mean the factory poses series pollution load to the environment in general and the aquatic habitat in particular,” the report noted.
As a result, a rise in temperature could negatively affect fish migration and ultimately, the species reproduction. It could also promote chemical reactions in the water.
The pH level recorded suggests that Hawassa textile effluents have high levels of alkaline, which could be due to dyeing and printing processes in the nearby textile facilities.
This case study emphasizes the need for treatment of textile effluent before it is released into surrounding waterways.
“In general, the textile industry emits a wide variety of pollutants from all stages in the processing of fibers and fabrics. These include liquid effluent, solid waste, hazardous waste, emissions to air and noise pollution. It is important to investigate all aspects of reducing wastes and emissions from the textile industry, as not only will it result in improved environmental performance, but also substantial savings for the individual companies,” the researchers said.
Swedish fashion giant, H&M works with suppliers in Ethiopia but says it has no business relationship with Hawassa Textile Factory.
According to Elisabeth Swayze, sustainability coordinator on water and chemicals, the company has strict requirements for its suppliers, including complying with wastewater quality levels defined by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Water Group, or local laws, depending on which are more strict.
“Water is a priority area for H&M. We are currently exploring opportunities to help the industry to improve on water management and we believe H&M can have a positive impact on the development of the textile industry in Ethiopia,” Swayze said.