/ 18 April 2008

Don’t drink tap water in northern Johannesburg

Residents in northern Johannesburg areas were on Friday warned not to drink tap water as the quality was not up to standard, Johannesburg Water said.

Spokesperson Baldwin Matsimela said during routine sampling on Thursday, it was found that the water supply was not up to standard and people in the northern Johannesburg areas should boil their water before drinking it.

The areas affected are Northcliff, Linden, Cresta, Blairgowrie, Fairlands and the suburbs immediately surrounding them.

“The water quality has been compromised and we are conducting more tests to find out the source of the problem. We do not know as yet what effects or symptoms it would have on people who have already consumed the water,” Matsimela said.

According to Johannesburg Water, if there is a serious problem with the water, residents will be brought water through alternative methods.

“Lab results of water samples taken yesterday [Thursday] will be known by 1pm and from there we will know how to proceed,” said Matsimela.

While the investigation is ongoing, residents are advised, as a precautionary measure, to boil their water before consumption and to limit exposure to the water of sensitive groups such as babies and the sick.

“Residents will be notified when it is again safe to drink the water without boiling it,” he said.

Residents can obtain more information and a full list of affected areas by calling the company’s 24-hour customer service line on Tel: 011 688 1500.

Two cholera cases were confirmed in Soweto last week. Johannesburg Water, however, on Thursday said water in Kliptown in Soweto was safe to drink after tests found no indication of cholera after the two cases were reported.

The Democratic Alliance has criticised Water Affairs Minister Lindiwe Hendricks, accusing her of “denialism” when she said South Africa was not facing a water crisis.

Early last month, responding to a Sunday newspaper report, Hendricks sought to assure the public there was no water-contamination crisis.

“The … [newspaper report] presents a gloomy picture of the state of water in South Africa and says that we are facing a water crisis similar to that of electricity. Fortunately we are not,” she said at the time.

Last year, failure by authorities to properly treat drinking water supplied to residents of Delmas may have triggered a mass outbreak of diarrhoea in the Mpumalanga town.

Tests by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry have shown “insufficient levels” of chlorine were added to the Delmas water supply between September 11 and October 14. This resulted in a “pulse” of contaminated water — with not enough chlorine in it to kill harmful organisms — being piped to residents. — Sapa