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Transforming Society

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Restoring Dignity

Public inquiry into broader water pollution challenges in the City of Tshwane

13 August 2019

Pretoria - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is set to institute a public inquiry into the broader water pollution challenges in the City of Tshwane.
The probe followed the negative results of water tests conducted by the CSIR in Hammanskraal.
Another study conducted by the CSIR has shown that residents with boreholes in Stinkwater, also in Hammanskraal, were not spared the health risks associated with using water from the area’s catchment area.
Water scientist Wouter le Roux said the study, concluded last year, found that water extracted from the ground, and tested for different determinants, showed a high level of E.coli.
Le Roux said the research was not meant to point fingers at people treating piped water because it never covered that area. He said many people chose not to use water delivered by trucks due to the “incorrect perception that the water in the truck is not clean”.

According to the report, the main risks that were identified related to the presence of faecal indicators and at times other water-borne pathogens as well as the elevated nitrate levels.
“Some of the water quality challenges faced by the Stinkwater residents may be addressed efficiently using tried and tested interventions, while others like the nitrate problem may require novel approaches,” the report read.
Announcing the inquiry, the commission’s provincial head, Buang Jones, said its scope would be widened to include the tenders related to water infrastructure awarded in the past. “We are going to look at tenders that were awarded, the monies spent and people who benefited from tenders and consequence management. We are going to go all the way back,” he said.

Jones said the commission decided to broaden the inquiry into water contamination to include river pollution because of a barrage of complaints from residents and businesspeople in the city.
“The enquiry will cover four other treatment plants in Tshwane because we have received other complaints from community and businesspeople concerned about the treatment plants,” he said.
The commission was finalising the inquiry’s terms of reference. The inquiry would examine how the state of wastewater treatment plants impact on quality and other human rights, Jones said.
“It will not just be a public inquiry confined to the issues in Hammanskraal. It is going to be broader than that. The inquiry will look at the water quality and river pollution in the City of Tshwane.”
Jones was speaking to the Pretoria News yesterday after the commission had met with the City and the Department of Water and Sanitation in an attempt to diffuse the impasse regarding the water quality.
At the meeting, Utility Services MMC Abel Tau was ordered to apologise to the commission in writing after he accused it of being irresponsible by prematurely announcing the water test results.
Meanwhile, Tau said the municipality was for the first time presented with results of water tests conducted by the CSIR on June 20.
He said the results showed there was an unacceptable high number of nitrates in the water, which was dangerous to babies and to people with weak immune systems.
“People should take precautions before using the water. People should not consume much of the water. They should rather use water that the municipality supplies using water tankers,” Tau said.
He said that the City intended to rectify the high level of nitrates identified in the water.
During the meeting, he suggested that other interventions, such as addressing the sludge flowing into the Apies River from the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant, should also be taken into consideration.
The SAHRC, on the other hand, proposed a community meeting on August 20 to brief the people of Hammanskraal about the latest water results.
Tau said that with the finalisation of the new water purification plant in Temba the quality of water improved dramatically. “This is a sensitive issue and a human rights issue. I am not even going to pass the buck and say that the problem was identified in 2011,” he said.
Le Roux advised that too much nitrate in the water could affect the ability of red blood cells “to carry their oxygen as they should. It could cause a decrease in the quality of life and affect children’s quality of life”.

Source: Pretoria News

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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