[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Rancid H2O pulses through SA dorps
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri Nov 23 07:34:52 GMT 2007
Chlorine 'caused diarrhoea'
21/11/2007 16:29 - (SA)
Cape Town - Failure by authorities to properly treat drinking water
supplied to residents of Delmas may have triggered the recent mass
outbreak of diarrhoea in the Mpumalanga town.
Tests by the department of water affairs have shown "insufficient
levels" of chlorine were added to the water supply between September 11
and October 14, members of Parliament's water affairs portfolio
committee heard on Wednesday.
This resulted in a "pulse" of contaminated water, with not enough
chlorine in it to kill harmful organisms, being piped to residents, the
department's water quality unit head, Leonardo Manus, told MPs.
"There was a period when (chlorine) levels were fluctuating... and
unacceptable," he said.
Water affairs had informed the municipality by letter of the situation
at the time.
The latest outbreak of diarrhoea in the Delmas area, the second since
its municipality assumed responsibility for water services in 2003, has
affected more than 1 000 people.
Water to the town, which consumes 160 megalitres a day, comes from 10
boreholes and a Rand Water pipeline.
Manus said although too-low chlorine dosing was probably the "trigger"
for the recent outbreak, it was not a sufficient explanation for the
"Something else must be causing it," he said.
The problem might be the result of mixing chlorine-treated water from
the boreholes with that from the Rand Water pipeline, which was treated
with a different chemical - ammonia chloramine.
"When you mix the two... you create new chlorine demand," Manus said,
implying chlorine levels could again be too low.
However, before any official conclusion could be reached, the records
would need to be studied "to determine what role this played in the
Lack of funds
Manus noted that the three major outbreaks of diarrhoea in the town - in
1993, 2005 and 2007 - appeared to follow the onset of heavy rains in the
After the 2005 outbreak, it was recommended the town be connected to
Rand Water via a new pipeline.
Manus said this had not yet been done due to a lack of funds, although
he expected the project to be completed next year.
SA Municipal Workers' Union national research officer Jeff Rudin - who
was granted permission to address the committee meeting by chairperson
Connie September - questioned government's priorities when it came to
supplying safe drinking water.
The reason for the new pipeline not being built was a R78m funding
shortfall, yet the country had allocated R20bn to build Soccer World Cup
stadiums, he said.
The problems with drinking water in South Africa was not confined to one
"We're sitting on hundreds of Delmases," Rudin warned, noting research
showed it was becoming unsafe to drink water in many parts of the country.
African National Congress MP Kay Moonsamy said the situation was grave.
The committee received constant assurances from department officials and
experts that South Africa's drinking water was fine, and fit to drink.
"This is a very grave problem. It is our... duty to take the matter up
with the minister (of Water Affairs, Lindiwe Hendricks)," he said.
'Mixed and diluted' water
Manus told members that tests on the boreholes around Delmas - which is
located atop a band of dolomitic rock - had revealed heavy faecal
pollution in the water from some of the wells.
He said residents of informal settlements around the town used "bucket
system" sanitation. Although he did not put a figure on the number of
people in these settlements, he said 1 000 more houses were needed for
informal settlement residents.
This would suggest thousands of Delmas residents are still using either
the bucket system or the local countryside as a toilet.
Manus also told MPs that chemical testing on water from one of the
town's boreholes had revealed high mercury levels, although it was
considered safe to drink after being "mixed and diluted" with water from
Delmas tap water 'safe'
21/11/2007 09:06 - (SA)
Johannesburg - The cause of the outbreak of diarrhoea in Delmas was not
tainted water, Water Affairs Minister Lindiwe Hendricks said on Tuesday.
"Delmas tap water is safe for human consumption," said the minister
drinking a glass of water.
"The results from tests conducted on water samples taken from Delmas
have proven negative for micro-biological contamination," she said.
"Indicator organisms were tested for prescribed South African national
Standards and the result proved negative for the presence of any
diarrhoea causing contamination."
Hendricks said the analysis was performed at five different laboratories.
The department's Drinking Water Quality Regulation Unit joined forces
with the University of Johannesburg in conducting the Delmas
investigations following the outbreak last month.
"A number of analytical tests were conducted to determine whether the
water that is currently been reticulated is safe, as well as to
establish whether a link exists between the increasing cases of
diarrhoea and the drinking water," the minister said.
Fluctuating chlorine levels
"During the investigations it was established that the resource water in
one of the three boreholes during September proved to be contaminated
and could have been a trigger for the initial increase in the number of
cases of diarrhoea."
Chlorination was required to deactivate contaminants before water was
reticulated and consumed. This had been immediately done and the process
was continued with support from the department of water affairs and
In addition to these measures, the department was urging the Delmas
community to continue to boil their water before use.
The number of affected people has risen to 1006 since the outbreak in
The results on samples of food taken for tests will be announced on
Hendricks said her visit to Delmas was out of concern following the
increasing in the number of people affected by diarrhoea.
Her department would continue to help the Delmas municipality improve
the water quality and ensure their water was safe to drink.
As supporting measures a reservoir would be built in Delmas at a cost of
R1.5 million by the department.
The minister also announced her department would pay R120 000 for the
cost of tests conducted by the University of Johannesburg. Six officials
had been deployed to Delmas as well as experts from the Institute of
Though the minister urged community to boil water as precautionary
matter, residents told Sapa they had lost trust in boiling water.
Maria Sisphuma, a mother of five children from Botleng township near
Delmas, said she now bought water from local shops because she did not
want her children to get sick.
Water has a funny colour
"When you boil the water and put it inside a fridge the colour changes
to a brownish colour as if it has been mixed with vinegar. After
drinking your tongue become dry and heavy," she said.
She now buys water daily at a cost of R8.50 per five litres.
A technician from the water quality unit of the department of water
affairs, Leonardo Manus, said the colour of the water changed due to the
presence of magnesium in the water, which he said was not harmful.
Mpumalanga premier Thabang Makwetla said the results from tests
conducted on milk and vegetables would be released on Wednesday.
"The preliminary results are available, but we will only release the
final result tomorrow (Wednesday) because more details need to be
finalised," the premier said.
Makwetla called on the Delmas municipality to take proper actions if
human error was found to be the cause of fluctuation of chlorine in the
water during September, which was suspected to have triggered the outbreak.
"Chlorine levels were not constant. At some stage they were above the
required level and some times below. We suspect water might have been
contaminated at that point," he said.
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