The (not so magnificent) seven

AfriForum takes municipalities to task over contaminated water

According to the tests undertaken during May and June this year, by civil rights group AfriForum, Ellisras in Limpopo and Heilbron and Villiers in the Free State did not comply with minimum water quality standards. 

AfriForum examined the quality of drinking water in 156 towns this year.

Last year, AfriForum said that of 132 towns tested, seven did not adhere to quality standards for drinking water.

The seven are: Pretoria West‚ Belfast‚ Lydenburg‚ Piet Retief‚ Witbank‚ Schweizer-Reneke and Stella.

However, after applying pressure on those municipalities to comply, AfriForum says it has ensured that this year, they passed the test.

 92275907 c0296103-e. coli bacteria sem-spl
Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are bacteria found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals.

The tests conducted by AfriForum show that drinking water in Ellisras contains E. coli‚ while water in Heilbron and Villiers featured high concentrations of faecal coliforms

Heilbron and Villiers featured high concentrations of faecal coliforms.
Image: Times LIVE

This resulted in the group warning the relevant communities within these three municipalities to not drink the water and these municipalities were placed on terms to immediately address the poor-quality water

Marcus Pawson, head of environmental affairs at AfriForum.

Head of environmental affairs at AfriForum‚ Marcus Pawson‚ says that new tests performed at least seven days after the initial tests had shown that the water reached the desired standards and was clean.

Pawson said the municipalities used a number of measures to improve the water quality‚ including flushing out the system.

While drinking water quality improved overall in the past year‚ AfriForum warns that the quality of sewage systems has deteriorated compared to last year.

Of the sewage systems tested in 88 towns this year, AfriForum found that 58 do not adhere to set quality standards, compared to 26 out of 73 sewage systems tested last year.

No more than 1 000 units of E. coli‚ per 100mℓ of water in treated sewage is considered an acceptable standard.

Last year’s tests found however, that almost all the Tshwane treatment plants‚ except for Pretoria East and Meyerspark‚ had elevated levels of E. coli.

Problems in the Vaal River system that supplies Tshwane remain a major obstacle to service delivery for the capital city.
Image: Project Isizwe

Pretoria West sewage contained 15 000 units of E. coli per 100mℓ of treated sewage, while Cape Town North contained a whopping 50 000 units of E. coli per 100mℓ of treated sewage.

“This deterioration is indicative of an invisible crisis that threatens South African communities‚ just as the current pollution of South Africa’s water resources is indicative of a serious crisis on national level that should be addressed by national government‚” Pawson says.


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