The water and environmental affairs department will help supply water to Carolina, Minister Edna Molewa said on Tuesday.
Molewa said even though Tuesday's judgment by the High Court in Pretoria was directed at Mpumalanga municipal authorities, her department would help provide water to the area.
“Even though there is no order against us as the department of water affairs, we will ensure that the judgment against the municipality is addressed,” she told reporters in Pretoria.
On Tuesday morning the court ordered the Gert Sibanda district municipality to provide Carolina residents with drinkable water within 72 hours. The municipality had to provide a minimum of 25 litres of drinkable water per person per day.
Molewa said the Water Services Act states that: “Every water authority has a duty to all consumers or potential consumers in its area of jurisdiction to progressively ensure sufficient, affordable, economical and sustainable access to water services”.
Water samples received on Tuesday morning confirmed that the water in Carolina was compliant with South African standards, she said.
“Based on these results I would like to pronounce that the drinking water of Carolina be declared safe for human consumption by my responsible technical unit.”
Molewa said the tests by three laboratories had proven that the pH, and levels of aluminium, iron, manganese, and sulphates in the Carolina water were within the set health limits.
The municipality's mayor and manager were also ordered to talk to the Federation for a Sustainable Environment and Sibolela Concerned Community, who brought the court application, about restoring the town's water supply.
A plan needed to be devised as to where, when and what volume of water would be provided in the interim.
The court ordered the municipality to provide it with a report within a month, detailing progress made.
Judge Moses Mavundla said the case related to residents' basic right of access to water.
“I am of the view that, when fundamentally entrenched rights are violated or compromised... the matter intrinsically becomes urgent.”
Mavundla said it was not disputed the water in the area was polluted, and the municipality's assurance that the water would be declared safe by June was in fact not the case.
Residents had been supplied with polluted water since January, which, however, they had been told not to drink.
Coal mines in the area apparently caused the pollution. – Sapa