Water safety alarm in Hammanskraal
Pretoria – The City of Tshwane yesterday insisted the water it was supplying to residents of Hammanskraal and surrounding areas was safe for consumption.
This was despite warnings from both the Department of Water and Sanitation and the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which again visited the Temba and Rooiwal wastewater treatment works.
The purpose of the visit was to assess progress by the City of Tshwane in eradicating pollution at the facilities in line with the department’s remedial action plans. It followed last year’s inspection after complaints that water was polluted and posed a health risk to the community.
SAHRC provincial head Buang Jones said: “We are still concerned about the quality of water supply to the community of Hammanskraal. The Department of Water and Sanitation is on record to state that it also has similar concerns about the quality of the water,” he said.
But Tshwane MMC for utility services Abel Tau, on the other hand, said the water was safe for consumption.
“The department holds a view that the water is not safe. I have demonstrated earlier with the test that we have done in a report that technically the water is safe for human consumption,” he said.
But Jones said the commission relied on information from the authority, which was the Department of Water and Sanitation.
He said the SAHRC would consider all available options to ensure that the community’s rights were protected.
The City would be held accountable because it was at the coalface of delivery, he said. “They must take the responsibility of providing safe and clean water.”
According to Jones, meaningful engagements between the City and the community would take place. “We would like to go with the mayor to the community to address the community as soon as possible because water is life.”
He said the SAHRC would also assist in improving relations between Tshwane and the department. “As we speak, there is a pending high court case between the City and the department. It is regrettable that in the 25th year of our democracy, the Department of Water and Sanitation has sought to resort to litigation in order to ensure it fulfils its constitutional obligations,” he said. The department took the City to court because it failed to comply with its regulation to provide clean and safe water to residents.
Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said they had discovered that water in Hammanskraal was coloured and smelly.
“What we are unhappy about is that even some of the correspondence that we have had is not responded to. The MMC indicated that some of the responses we were supposed to know we only got to know today in Temba,” he said.
Tau said the City had put aside R250 million to address problems at Rooiwal, including deploying enough security guards there.
“From where we stand, the water being supplied to people in Hammans- kraal is safe for human consumption. There are glaring gaps from the way we have to report as the City and need to be closed quicker. There is no concurrence in terms of communication,” he said.
He said he would give a mandate for an independent test to be conducted on the water from taps in Hammanskraal.