“The vast majority of South Africans are receiving clean and reliable water, but there are problems and they appear to be getting worse,” DA MP Leon Basson told journalists at Parliament.
Over the past four months, Basson and fellow MPs Wilmot James and Kevin Mileham sent teams to North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and the Eastern Cape to oversee the independent, scientific testing of water at various municipalities.
The levels of E.coli – the bacteria causing diarrhoea – were shockingly high.
“The E.coli levels in the Britz water waste plant [is]… 320,000 parts per 100ml,” Basson said.
“This is an alarming finding as the maximum level that is acceptable for sewer plants is 1000 parts per 100ml.”
Results from the Rietfontein waste water treatment plant, also in North West, were more alarming. A water quality test commissioned by the local homeowners’ association found the plant had an E.coli count of more than a million parts per 100ml.
“This is 1000 times more E.coli than is allowed for human consumption,” Basson said.
James visited Mokopane in Limpopo where he found a rural, poor community living with the stench of raw sewage seeping into the borehole-based drinking water on a daily basis.
“The E.coli count was 40,000 parts per 100ml. That will kill you if you drink it,” James said.
“It’s highly pathogenic… highly unfit for human or animal consumption.”
Concern was expressed about the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, where four hospitals tested positive for E.coli in their tap water.
“This is shocking as the health risk for E.coli consumption at hospitals is especially severe,” James said.
“Giving already sick people contaminated water could lead to severe and life-threatening diarrhoea, especially in young children.”
The DA would submit the findings to Cabinet and ask for the establishment of an inter-ministerial task team, to be made up of the departments of water and sanitation and co-operative governance, and engineers and experts in the fields of water purification and health, to do a wide probe.
“We are convinced that if our small scale investigation produced such findings, a more systematic investigation by the appropriate entity will find problems at a greater scale across the country,” Basson said.
The DA would continue laying criminal charges against municipal officials who contravene the National Water Act by negligently polluting water.
In May, three babies died and over 500 cases of diarrhoea were recorded at health care facilities in Bloemhof, North West, following water contamination.