Residents in the Emalahleni local municipality, which includes the coal mining town of Witbank, have raised concerns over the quality of water, alleging that the municipality was feeding them raw sewage.
According to residents, it has been some time since the municipality started supplying dirty water. They also claim to have not had any explanation from council officials regarding this.
The alleged silence from the municipality has led to the spread of rumours on various internet sites, claiming that the water was straight from local sewage dams.
“Straight from the tap, you can see with the naked eye that the water that comes out is extra-dirty,” said a local hotel owner who did not wish to be named.
Petros Mahlangu, a resident at Vosman, one of the townships in Witbank, said: “When I saw the water at first, I thought the municipality was doing this only for the township supply. That night I did not eat,” said Mahlangu, a labourer making a living tending peoples’ gardens in town.
“The first thing I did when I got to work was to open the tap and I was shocked to see that those in town were also drinking dirty water,” he said. “This was December or January, but until today, none of the councillors have explained what is happening.”
Attempts to reach Emalahleni’s acting municipal manager, Ronnie Mukondereli, failed, while the municipal spokesperson, Lebohang Mofokeng, was also not available.
In a statement he issued earlier this month on the municipal website, Mofokeng sought to assure residents that the water quality in the area was not compromised.
“The Emalahleni water treatment plant had a water crisis due to the fact that eight sand filters were out of commission. The water quality was not affected but the impact of the missing filters resulted in a water shortage,” he said. “This means that there was not enough water leaving the plant to supply the community, as a result the water levels in the reservoirs were very low or, safe to say, were at low level.”
Mofokeng’s statement added that two of the eight filters had already been cleaned, refilled and recommissioned, something that authorities hoped would ease the water shortage in the area.
“I wish to reiterate what I said and maintain that it is really safe to drink our tap water,” he said in the statement, also referring concerned rate payers to an attached “certificate of analyses”.
The poor quality of water and shortages in the area have been a problem for some time now. In 2007, the region was also said to be facing a potential water shortage crisis.
A few weeks ago, The New Age also reported on water shortages in Bronkhorstspruit, a Gauteng town about 40km from Witbank, as well as in a number of villages in the former KwaNdebele homeland, where a transformer for one of the local reservoirs had been struck by lightning.
This article was originally placed at http://www.thenewage.co.za/12953-1014-53-Water_crisis_in_Witbank