On the eve of the celebration of Osun river deity by Osun Osogbo worshippers, the state government warned against the consumption of Osun water.
The state government through its commissioner for Health, Dr Rafiu Isamotu, says the water is not good for drinking because it contains lead and other dangerous elements hazardous to human health.
But with test conducted by a non-profit organisation, Urban Alert recently revealed the river to be heavily contaminated with lead, mercury, cyanide and other elements.
The contamination it was gathered, emanated from the intensive activities of artisanal miners along the river basin spanning scores of kilometres, especially along Ijesaland axis of the state.
According to an Iponda-Ijesa resident, Ademola Adeboyejo, what the miners do on a daily basis is to rinse the mud/clay/granite brought from the mining site with the water to extract gold and other mineral deposit, turning water that is naturally colourless to whitish.
Several Osun adherents ignored the warning and not only drank the water openly during the week long Osun Osogbo festival, but filled thousands of containers with the water while returning home obviously for further consumption and domestic use.
A river Osun priestess, Osunremi Ifarinu says that to a novice, Osun water is ordinary, while to the spirit filled person, Osun water is herbal.
She argued that despite what is described as seemingly polluted water because of its whitish look, the water is efficacious for healing, especially for its ability to make barren women fertile.
“What people refer to as water, we call herb because it has transcended ordinary water even with what you call pollution, its powers remains intact,” she said.
A senior lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nkem Torimoro of the department of Microbiology who corroborated the findings of Urban Alert, said that people living along the Osun river and their unborn children are at the risk of neurological disorders.
He added that children exposed to high levels of lead consumption can have behavioural disorder, learning disabilities and low intelligence quotient.
While Osun river worshippers and researchers hold divergent views about the content of Osun water, Osun State government has expressed its readiness to clean up the water.
Government through its commissioner for Environment, Mr Oladepo Solagbade said it has consulted experts to engage in the clean-up exercise and also consulted the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESRA) to further investigate the pollution.
Hundreds of residents live along the bank of the river and rely on water from Osun river for domestic and drinking purposes despite the warnings from various quarters.
A community leader in Osunjela, Chief Olusola Ogunsola appealed to the federal government to assist the Osun State government in not just cleaning up the water, but checking the activities of artisanal miners.
He noted that the intervention of the federal government and the state government requires political will to guide against the Bagega, Zamfara State episode, where no fewer than 300 children lost their lives to lead poison in 2011.