Durban water is safe to drink, says Umgeni Water amid gastro concerns

City dismisses social media concerns over water quality as fake news

04 January 2023 - 18:46
By Sakhiseni Nxumalo
Umgeni Water sys it water is safe to drink following numerous reports of gastroenteritis cases being treated at some hospitals. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/MARINOS KARAFYLLIDIS Umgeni Water sys it water is safe to drink following numerous reports of gastroenteritis cases being treated at some hospitals. Stock photo.

Umgeni Water says Durban water is safe to drink following reports of gastroenteritis cases being treated at some hospitals.

The water utility said in the past 24 hours, several social messages and discussions concerning drinking water quality in Durban and whether it was safe for consumption surfaced.

One of these was posted by Visvin Reddy, the leader of African Democratic Change (Adec), who said he was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday night after he had explosive diarrhoea, uncontrolled nausea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps.  

Reddy said a doctor told him there was an “outbreak” of gastroenteritis at several facilities and suggested he refrain from drinking tap water or boil it as it could be an underlying cause.

“I’m a councillor and an Umgeni Water board member so if the water coming from our taps is contaminated, then I need to do something about it. If hospitals are filling up then there is a serious problem, especially if most admissions are all similar symptoms. I’ve decided to write this message and share my experience with you to prevent you from getting sick.”

He recommended residents boil their drinking water until tests proved otherwise.

He contacted both the city and Umgeni Water to ask them to investigate information he received and test the drinking water quality.

Umgeni Water said in a statement their bulk potable (drinking) water service provider to seven municipalities, including the eThekwini metro, complied with all safety and quality conditions.

Water utility spokesperson Shami Harichunder said the water supplied in bulk from all their treatment plants was, therefore, safe for human consumption.

“As an example, in the most recent analysis of water quality results from the Durban Heights and Wiggins water treatment plants – which supply eThekwini metro with the water it needs for vast parts of the Durban region – it was found: there were no microbiological failures; chlorine residuals were adequate and within the accepted range; there was low turbidity in the final water and water supplied from these plants complied with the requirements of SANS 241 for drinking water quality,” said Harichunder. 

He said water quality was monitored daily.

Municipal spokesperson Msawake Mayisela didn’t respond to queries. 

On its Facebook page, the municipality said it was aware of the message making rounds on social media and maintained that its water was clean, and the public must ignore the disinformation circulating in this regard. 

“The public is urged to rely only on the information that comes from the city regarding water quality. We are therefore appealing to all our residents and stakeholders to desist from sharing these false reports on social media or any other platforms,” read the city statement.

Reddy said the city’s dismissal of concerns of water safety as “fake news” was how it responded to reports of high concentrations of E coli levels in the beaches.

He said the city should instead test its tap water and put the matter to rest.

“If the water is safe to drink then people will not panic. I suspect that the city officials are aware that something is wrong with the water, hence their reluctance to conduct testing or report on test results. The city’s failure to treat this matter seriously is cause for concern.”

He said he would engage a private company to conduct tests and make the results public.

Councillor Zandile Myeni, chair of the block of smaller parties in the municipality, supported the call for the city to test its drinking water.

“It is no secret that many Durban residents have opted to drink bottled water because they do not trust the municipal water. We are also aware that water treatment plants in eThekwini are in a chaotic state. The head of water has made numerous requests for funds to repair these plants which have been poorly maintained over the years.

It is time that the mayor responds and provides the facts about the state of the water treatment plants and whether it is safe to drink water from the taps.”

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