Around a month after the authorities warned about the quality of well water on Pulau Ubin, a few food outlets there now have treated water that they can use for cooking.
Water treatment systems were installed at three outlets there last month. Water from two of the systems has been tested and deemed safe for the preparation of food and drinks for sale.
Treated water from a system installed at a third food establishment has yet to complete tests, while a fourth system will be set up at another shop soon.
The four shops are major providers of food and drinks out of a total of seven licensed retail food outlets on the island, which has 38 residents.
The initiative was developed and coordinated by the Siglap Citizens Consultative Committee and non-governmental organisation Corporate Citizen Foundation. National water agency PUB provided technical advice.
The system, which costs around $7,000 each, is sponsored by engineering firm HSL Constructor.
Last December, the National Environment Agency (NEA) started requiring all food retail outlets on Pulau Ubin to boil well water continuously for at least a minute before using it to prepare food and drinks.
This was as testing samples of tap water had shown the presence of E. coli and total coliform bacteria, which could lead to symptoms similar to food poisoning, such as diarrhoea or nausea.
News of the deterioration in water quality caused business to drop by 20 to 30 per cent, said Madam Goh Sin Eng, 65, of eatery Sin Lam Huat, one of the food outlets that has installed the system.
She expects utility bills for the past month to be higher as the shop had to boil water used to wash raw food and utensils, but is hopeful business will improve with the treated water.
"People will have more confidence in the water here and will come," she said. The island sees up to 300,000 visitors annually.
The new system uses a seven-stage process.
A strainer removes large particles and a 50-micron membrane filter removes smaller particles. Then an activated carbon filter takes away contaminants and odour, and a 1-micron membrane filter takes out micro particles and organisms.
After which, a 0.01-micron ultra- filtration system removes bacteria such as E. coli, and light sterilisers make viruses and other micro organisms inactive.
Shop owners have agreed to take charge of the maintenance of these systems, including changing filters and flushing out sediments daily.
A tap will also be installed at each water treatment system so that residents on the island can use and benefit from the treated water.
Dr Maliki Osman, an MP for East Coast GRC, which Pulau Ubin is a part of, said: "Agencies are looking at bringing water treatment units to Pulau Ubin and for the residents to have better access to potable water... There are longer-term plans for that, but we wanted to see if we can help with interim solutions for businesses."
He said an interim solution has been provided for the food outlets there so that visitors to the island "will feel more confident".