Mayor, Jerry Sibiya, said he first became aware of the problem on Friday night when a sick resident phoned him suspecting that the water was responsible for making him ill.
“Since then, I have received more than 40 phone calls,” said Cllr Sibiya. “On Monday, I sat with the water manager and the administrator and obtained permission to send samples of the water to an independent laboratory. Our own lab took samples at Mpofini, the Ghetto area, near Filidi School and near the Bhekuzulu cemetery, for testing.”
He continued, “The water looks clean but it could be that something has leaked into the network. Until we know what is going on, residents should not consume the water without boiling it.”
Nathi Mbongwa, AbaQulusi’s water manager, explained that the water supplied to town and Bhekuzulu comes from the reservoir that also supplies Lakeside and Emadoshini. The reservoir stores purified water from Klipfontein Dam. Klipfontein Dam fills with water from Besterspruit stream, which runs through Bhekuzulu, as well as Bloemveld Dam and Grootgewacht Dam which gets water from streams flowing from the catchment area.
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“We are not disputing that there is a possibility that it is the water that is making people sick. We are trying to find the source of the problem and are arranging to get samples sent to a lab in Durban for testing. I am pushing as hard as I can to get the results by Thursday afternoon. We are running a full test to test for everything that is possible,” said Mr Mbongwa.
It is estimated that the water tests will cost roughly R160 000.
“The samples tested by us for turbidity and chlorine came back normal. We do suspect that a foreign body may have been introduced to the water network through an illegal water connection.”
Responding to some resident’s complaints that the water looked cloudy, and others saying it looked muddy, Mr Mbongwa explained. “The chemical dosing at the water treatment plant is adjusted time and again when there is a need and has nothing to do with what is happening now. It is the normal procedure, especially when there is a change in season. What happens, is the change of temperature may cause the water at the bottom of the river bed to rise to the top or cold water at the top to sink to the bottom. At this time it is normal for the dosage of chemicals in the water to be altered to ensure that the water is still fit for consumption. The reason you may sometimes see muddy water is when there is a burst pipe. There was a burst pipe on Mark Street which was repaired on Saturday. After a burst pipe, residents must let the water run for a bit until the sand and sediment is flushed out of the system.”
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Asked if he felt confident enough in the quality of Vryheid’s water to drink tap water himself, Mr Mbongwa responded, “As a municipality, we need to make sure we regain public confidence in the quality of the water. People have never trusted the quality of the water in Vryheid. I do drink the tap water because how you can supply something to the public to judge if you can’t be confident enough to drink it yourself.”
“However, I am not disputing that there may be something in the water that is making people sick now,” he concluded.
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