The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) says an investigation is underway into the source or sources of the Cholera outbreak in the country.
“Technical teams from the Department of Water and Sanitation and the provincial and national Department of Health as well as relevant municipalities are carrying out water quality tests at distribution points and at water treatment works in areas where people have become infected,” the department said.
Giving clarity on the questions raised regarding drinking water quality in South Africa, amid the cholera outbreak at Hammanskraal in the City of Tshwane and Parys in Ngwathe Local Municipality, Free State, the department said it is also engaged in tracking and tracing of infections.
The department also noted that cholera is not only spread through polluted water, but also through poor hygiene, eating contaminated food or by coming into contact with the faeces of an infected person.
While the original source of the cholera infection has to date, not been located, the department said it is highly likely that the disease, which started in Hammanskraal is related to the pollution of water sources in the area from the City’s Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works upstream of Hammanskraal.
According to the department, Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works has not been well-maintained for many years, and has insufficient capacity to deal with the volume of waste water entering the works.
The department said the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works is polluting the Apies River which flows into the Leeukraal Dam from which water is abstracted by the City’s Temba Water Treatment Works.
“The Temba Water Treatment Works is supposed to clean the raw water abstracted from the dam and treat it so that it is fit for human consumption. However, the water in the dam is so polluted that the Temba Water Treatment Works is not able to treat the water such that it meets the required standards for drinking water.
“However, tests on the water from the Temba Water Treatment Works indicate that it does not contain cholera bacteria and that it can be used for other purposes such as personal hygiene, dishwashing and washing of clothes. For this reason, the City of Tshwane is using water tankers to supply the residents of Hammanskraal within the supply area of the Temba Water Treatment Works with drinking water,” the department explained.
The Green Drop report released by the department in 2022 indicated that the state of many municipal waste water treatment systems is deteriorating.
“This means that many municipalities are discharging effluent from the waste water treatment works which does not meet the specified treatment levels, which in turn is resulting in pollution of the rivers and dams from which municipalities and water boards draw water in order to treat it before supplying it to communities,” the department said.
The department warned that the municipalities are not allowed by law to provide communities with water that does not meet the quality standards set by the South African Bureau of Standards.
The department said some municipalities obtain treated water from water boards, while others have their own water treatment works.
Tshwane Municipality receives treated water from two water boards, Rand Water and Magalies Water, as well as supplying residents in some areas with water from its own Water Treatment Works.
Water from the Temba Water Treatment Works only supplies the Hammanskraal area in Tshwane.
The department emphasised that water boards and municipalities are required to conduct regular tests in line with South African National Standard (SANS) 241, issued by the South African Bureau of Standards on the treated water that they supply to households.
The department also confirmed that the tests carried out by Rand Water, Magalies Water and the City of Tshwane on the water being distributed from other water treatment works (other than the Temba Water Treatment Works), and the water tankers distributing drinking water in Hammanskraal, continue to indicate that “such water remains fit for human consumption.”
“Gauteng residents may be assured that they can continue to consume water from their taps as long as their municipalities continue to indicate that the water being provided meets the requirements of SANS 241. The same applies to water supplied by municipalities throughout the country,” the department said.
Th department has urged public members to void consuming untreated water sourced from the rivers, dams, and streams because it contains raw (untreated) water, and is not suitable for human consumption.
Ngwathe tap water safe for consumption
Meanwhile, the department has confirmed that tap water in Ngwathe Local Municipality is safe for consumption.
“The department has conducted water quality tests on all the sources of drinking water and can confirm that the analysis indicates that treated water reticulated to taps in the area complies with SANS 241 quality requirements and is therefore suitable for human consumption. – SAnews.gov.za