Doctors question Durban water quality

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

Doctors allege the water in certain districts should be blamed for more people getting gastroenteritus.

Durban doctors are concerned about the alleged increased number of people suffering from gastroenteritis and are blaming it on the quality of the tap water in the Dolphin Coast and Ilembe districts.

Dr Dinesh Patel and his colleagues from local clinics and hospitals have noted that since the floods in 2007 and the recent water restrictions, the water in the area does not look or taste the same, North Coast Courier reported.

“What is scarier is that blood tests have proved that there is an increased level of bacteria such as E. coli present in patients’ bloodstreams,” Patel said.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, typically resulting from bacterial toxins or viral infections that cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

“Since the bacteria can enter the body in many ways, it is difficult to point to water as the source of the problem, but it seems to be the common denominator.”

Despite the ongoing concerns, water supplier Sembcorp Siza Water remains adamant that there has not been any deterioration in the water quality.

“Sembcorp Siza Water’s water quality is in compliance with South African national standards and is good to drink. We also take daily samples of Avondale Reservoir, as well as weekly samples of the reservoirs and point of use,” Sembcorp Siza Water spokesperson Khosi Mathenjwa said.

Scientist, environmental adviser and former employee of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSRI), Dr Anthony Turtin, said the water-treatment plant that feeds Ilembe was an unimproved plant, meaning the water was abstracted directly from the river.

“There is no storage, so if the river stops flowing then a crisis ensues,” Turtin said.

Turton said it was highly likely that water of variable quality would be delivered for various reasons.

“The water resource used as feed stock is of a poor quality and the operators are limited by this factor. They typically dose high levels of chlorine as a result and this changes the taste,” he said.

He said the quality of water was poor because of the stressed system with no dilution.

“This also concentrates the pathogenic loads coming from untreated sewage, or inadequate infrastructure to divert sewage flows into a suitable waste water treatment plant. In my view, the latter is a major risk.”

However, Ilembe District Municipality spokesperson Khululiwe Makhaye said there had been no water failures from either the treatment works or the reticulation that would pose a risk to consumers.

“The trucks that supply water during the day are getting water from the Hazelmere [Dam] supply as well as the Sundumbili supply. Both these sources are subjected to similar water quality monitoring,” Makhaye said.

– Caxton News Service


today in print