Scientists say quality of Durban’s drinking water ‘looks good’

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
Experts say Durban's tap water quality appears 'good'. File photo.
Experts say Durban's tap water quality appears 'good'. File photo.

The quality of Durban’s drinking water has been put to the test by the Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology and the results “look good”, say scientists.

In recent weeks there has been concern expressed about the quality of the city’s drinking water supply, particularly with malfunctioning sewer pump stations leading to dangerous E. coli levels in rivers, the death of marine life and beach closures.

The institute, which is based at the Durban University of Technology, confirmed on Monday that scientists analysed the drinking water and “the results look good”.

Director of the institute Prof Faizal Bux said: “Recently there has been much concern about Durban’s tap water quality. We have conducted microbiological testing on random samples from the greater Durban area (south, north and west) and the tap water satisfies SANS 241 microbiological drinking water standards.”

SANS 241 are the limits and associated risks for domestic water as determined by the SA National Standard, where parameters falling outside these limits may cause acute or chronic health problems in individuals.

However, Bux warned members of the public to remain aware of announcements from the eThekwini municipality “in event of any changes in the water quality in specific areas in the future”.

“The closure of beaches in and around Durban is cause for serious concern.

“This has largely been caused by pollution emanating from faecal sources due to poorly treated wastewater discharged from wastewater treatment plants and spills from dysfunctional sewer pump stations.

“This was evident at the Umgeni River mouth where dead fish were seen on the banks of the river. Water tests showed extremely low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water that could have caused the fish to die. Low oxygen levels are a reflection of poor water quality attributed to a high amount of undesirable organic material in the environment.”

Bux said the institute is continuing to test samples of wastewater from sewage plants in eThekwini to monitor Covid-19 levels.

“This provides a good indication of the levels of Covid-19 infection in the community.

“Based on the latest tests, there are very low levels of SARS-CoV-2 detected in the wastewater samples.

“Findings correlate well with the comparatively low number of clinical cases observed in the eThekwini metro.”

Bux said his team uses the latest molecular techniques to test for SARS-CoV-2 and shares results with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases as part of a national monitoring system.

The approach is used in many parts of the world to monitor community-level Covid-19 outbreaks and serves as an early warning system.


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