Water warning for Hammanskraal residents issued by SAHRC

The City of Tshwane says it has implemented upgrades of water treatment works to ensure residents have safe water.
The City of Tshwane says it has implemented upgrades of water treatment works to ensure residents have safe water.
Image: 123RF/maridav

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says water in Hammanskraal north of Pretoria is not safe for human consumption.

"Independent sample analysis done by the CSIR confirms this. Some of the drinking water determinants . . .  can cause chronic health conditions to the residents," said SAHRC attorney Buang Jones.

The water sampling was conducted on June 20 2019 at the Temba Water Treatment Works, Kekana Primary School, Refentse Clinic and Hammanskraal Secondary School.

The drinking water samples were taken to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory for microbiological, chemical, and physical analysis on the same day.

"We have requested an urgent meeting with the City of Tshwane and department of water and sanitation," said Jones. This is scheduled for Monday, August 12, and will be followed by a community meeting in Hammanskraal provisionally set down for August 20.

The finding is contrary to assurances by the city that strides have been made to vastly improve the water quality, and that it is safe to drink.

The city said in a statement in July that it had installed advanced treatment processes at the Temba water treatment works, as part of a larger, ongoing upgrade.

The city's mayco committee member for utility services, Abel Tau, was shown on a video clip shared this week pouring, sniffing and drinking the water from the area to prove the assertion that the water is no longer discoloured or stinky, as claimed by residents in recent years.

Hammanskraal Radio recently quoted another city representative, Darryl Moss, as saying that the water was safe, and would be further purified by the end of August.

"The new technology will sort out all those issues [of smell and colour] and within the next month the water coming out of Temba will be as good as anywhere else in the world," Moss promised.

In April Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa, who came into office in February after taking over from Solly Msimanga, promised to tackle the water issues.

Mokgalapa said it was “no secret that we inherited an administration that contaminated our streams and dams”.

“Over and above what we did in the past two-and-a-half years, the need to replace, upgrade and construct waste water treatment works facilities remains relevant – that’s why we have allocated R175-million in this regard and R80-million for replacement of worn-out network pipes,” the Sowetan quoted the mayor as saying.

Meanwhile, last month, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) issued a letter of demand to the City of Tshwane calling for immediate action on the substandard potable water supplied by Magalies Water to Hammanskraal residents.

It contracted a test by an independent water laboratory, which indicated that the water was not fit for consumption. Outa said the water quality in July 2019 was worse than in December 2018 when the community raised the same concerns. 

"The results indicated high concentrations of nitrites (NO₂) and nitrates (NO₃) which pose a chronic health risk to some babies," said Outa. It advised residents that a diet adequate in Vitamin C partially protects against the adverse effects of these chemicals.

The issue came to a head a year ago when residents shut down the township. 

“For 10 years now we have been complaining about this dirty water but we are told the water is drinkable,” resident Joseph Baloyi said then.

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