Johannesburg – Carolina residents in Mpumalanga who cannot afford bottled water have resorted to drinking the town's polluted water to quench their thirst.
Many have fallen ill and ended up in local clinics and hospitals.
"Most of the unemployed people here are forced to drink tap water and then they become ill with stomach problems," resident Jordon Mayaba told Sapa in a telephone interview on Thursday.
The father of three lives at the Crossroads informal settlement in Carolina's Silobela location.
"Everybody cannot afford to buy the water and on some days there [are] 11, 12, 13 people per day that are taken to clinics."
He said that five litres of bottled water costs R10 and lasts a day for a family of five.
"It's just not enough."
The water is used for cooking and drinking, while the contaminated tap water is used for washing clothes and cleaning homes.
Other people in the settlement have resorted to taking water from a nearby church.
"The situation is very bad and sometimes no water even comes out of the taps, like today."
The town's Democratic Alliance councillor Helen McGinn said the municipality was trying to find a solution, but stressed the problem was with mining.
"These mines are allowed to develop and proliferate along the catchment area without the proper checks being done. When we realised it was contaminated, people tried putting all sorts of things into the water to make it better."
Too much iron in water
Beeld newspaper reported that municipal authorities were pouring lime into the water in an attempt to raise the pH level. Suspected seepage from two abandoned coal mines in the Nkomati catchment area had made the water too acidic, and thus undrinkable.
Tests conducted by authorities also revealed iron levels in the water were seven times higher than the acceptable level for drinking water, the newspaper reported. Aluminium levels were 140 times higher, manganese levels 3 000 times higher, and sulphate levels twice as high.
Problems began in January, when residents noticed the water tasted strange. Local authorities warned residents on January 11 that the water was not fit for human consumption.
McGinn said when bleach was poured into the water, it turned rusty and looked like jelly.
"When you wash clothes they come out brown."
She said schools remained open as water tankers were dispatched to the area.
The water supplying the town, and two bordering areas, flows into the Nooitgedacht Dam and from there into the Komati River, she explained. Ongoing meetings were underway to find a solution. The water affairs department was looking into the matter.
Resident Roland Klopper, who runs a Superkwik shop in the area, told Sapa the problem had reached "dire proportions".
"Dead fish have already been found in Bosmans Spruit. What's happening here is terrible."
On Sunday night, Klopper poured a cup of chlorine into his swimming pool and it turned dark red.
"It messed up my whole pool system."
He said bottled water was costing residents too much and water tankers were not supplying enough.
It was unclear what the population of the town was. Some estimated it to be over 15 000.
Attempts to reach the Albert Luthuli local municipality water head were unsuccessful. The municipal manager was off work until Monday.
SA-Venues.com describes Carolina as a wetland region of Mpumalanga boasting "exceptional natural beauty and dotted with an abundance of shimmering lakes and rivers".
This article was originally placed at http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Poor-residents-forced-to-drink-dirty-water-20120216