THE NATIONAL Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is investigating complaints regarding the quality of the city’s water following numerous complaints from Kimberley residents that the tap water is murky and dirty.
DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the department was interacting with Sol Plaatje Municipality, where it was stated that they would “investigate each complaint”.
“There are numerous complaints on social media, while complaints were also reported to the Sol Plaatje Municipality call centre. Sol Plaatje engineers are investigating and will report to the municipal manager who in turn will report it to DWS. Pending their findings, the necessary steps will follow,” said Ratau.
He indicated that high rainfall and high flows into the Vaal River affected the clarity of the water.
“The major complaints are from areas receiving water directly from the Riverton Water Treatment Works. The purified water turbidity of more than the required five Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU) has been reported in the water. This indicates that water-suspended silt and clay are found in the tested water. This turbidity needs to be removed by treatment.”
Ratau added that while murky water was “visually and aesthetically unpleasant”, Sol Plaatje Municipality had reported that their laboratory results indicated that the water was “safe to drink”.
“The only failure is the turbidity that is more than the required 5 NTU.”
He noted that reservoirs were supposed to be cleaned every three years.
“If required, reservoirs need to be cleaned more often. There were numerous leak repairs lately that could have resulted in the silt entering the pipes. This silt can result in the murky and unclear water that is being experienced.”
DA councillor Ockert Fourie has meanwhile stated that “seemingly clear water” was leaving the Riverton Water Treatment Plant en route to various areas of Kimberley.
“This does not rule out concerns that there may have been negligence in terms of frequent water testing and chemical treatment at Riverton. It indicates that distribution pipelines in some suburbs were possibly damaged or that scour valves or fire hydrants were not properly drained following repairs,” said Fourie.
He stated further that two reservoirs at Newton were last cleaned more than 14 years ago.
“This is contrary to standard operating procedures that require annual cleaning of reservoirs.
“Kimberley’s water situation is worrying, especially as the exact source and extent of the current water contamination cannot be determined.
“The DA has asked DWS to investigate the quality of Sol Plaatje’s water being fed to residents over the past two months as well as the non-compliance regarding water management.”
Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie said that they were adding double the dose of chemicals to purify the water due to the increased turbidity.
“We have laboratory technicians and test the water on a daily basis for the presence of E-coli. If necessary, the water is sent to a private laboratory for testing. Tests will continue to be conducted for possible bacteria and serious abnormalities shall be communicated accordingly. Our reservoirs are routinely cleaned on a regular basis,” said Matsie.
He added that additional water releases from the Bloemfontein dam could affect the quality of raw water.
“This may affect the purification process at Riverton Water Purification Works. However, the impact may not be as severe as the initial releases since ‘river bed flushing’ and pollution dilution has stabilised.
“We are continuing with practical and possible treatment adjustments at the plant, so as to minimise the impact on purified water. The situation is being closely monitored and any serious abnormalities will be communicated accordingly.”
Matsie also advised residents to stay away from flooded river banks and to be vigilant of unstable ground close to rivers and other water-logged areas after additional sluice gates were opened on January 18.
“The community of Riverton and surrounding areas should not refrain from fishing as the water levels continue to rise.
“The community of Riverton and surrounding areas is warned to avoid the banks of the river and not to risk fishing as the water levels continue to rise. The national Department of Water and Sanitation will notify us if additional sluice gates will be opened.”
The Public Servants Association (PSA) has meanwhile urged all its members to work from home until the water supply is restored in Springbok.
PSA provincial manager Steve Ledibane stated that certain government departments, including the provincial Department of Education, were forced to work from home to observe Covid-19 regulations and other health-related risks owing to the inability to sanitise and properly clean facilities.
“The water has been off for the past six days. The PSA advises all members employed at government departments in Springbok not to enter premises that have not been cleaned or premises that cannot provide clean, running water for ablution facilities,” said Ledibane.
“The PSA calls for an investigation to be launched into the water crisis and provide emergency assistance to all those who are affected.”