Confirmed: Durban water treatment plant water is deadly
Local resident Denzil Bazley, who has been urging the municipality to ensure the quality of water pouring out of Hillcrest Waste Water Treatment Works, said tests they had conducted found the water had 390 times more than the legal limit of E.coli.
The plant’s treated water flows into the uMhlatuzana River. Bazley’s concern is for the health of residents of areas like Tshelimnyama and Ekukhanyeni, who use it for their water needs.
The mechanical engineer said they had received the results from an accredited lab. The money for the tests was sourced from concerned community members.
In addition to the E.coli, the laboratory found that the concentration of fats, oil and greases in the treated water was three times the legal limit.
The water flows through Giba Gorge Nature Reserve and travels down to the Tshelimnyama and Ekukhanyeni areas, near Pinetown.
This flies in the face of the municipality’s assertion that the plant was processing sewage, and that the main problem lay with fats, oils and greases.
Bazley, a director of Giba Gorge Environmental Precinct, said he started receiving complaints from mountain bikers who cycled through the gorge about two months ago and he began to investigate.
What was concerning was that the water was not processing raw sewage and communities down the river used it for drinking and swimming. It was not only communities that were affected, but aquatic life would also be affected by the pollution, he said. “It stinks, it really stinks,” Bazley said of the water.
Residents told the Daily News that the untreated water had given them scabies and that they had found small creatures in it.
Bazley, who was responsible for maintaining the waterworks in the area from 1997 to 2008, said the plant was no longer operating near its capacity. The plant should be processing about one million litres of raw sewage a day, but had been performing below par for the past 15 years. He said the plant could not meet the processing requirements for the area and it was unlikely things would get better in the near future.
A solution would be to expand the plant, or to operate at full capacity to minimise the damage to the environment, he said.
General practitioner Dr Mags Moodley said infections resulting from E.coli can result in people vomiting and getting diarrhoea.
Msawakhe Mayisela, eThekwini spokesperson, said the provision of clean water was a top priority for the municipality.
“Under no circumstances will the city deliberately shirk its water and sanitation responsibilities to the detriment of the welfare of its residents.”
Mayisela said the city would conduct its own investigation to verify Bazley’s reports.