The water supply at Livingstone hospital in Port Elizabeth contains traces of E coli bacteria, which could be harmful for those with weak immune systems, according to a report on Wednesday.

The bacteria could cause diarrhoea, urinary tract infections and pneumonia in the sick, elderly and young children, according to the report on the Herald Online.

The findings were part of tests commissioned by the newspaper for tap water in Korsten, Motherwell, Summerstrand, Framesby and Livingstone Hospital.

Tests conducted by Pathcare Laboratories revealed that many water samples taken around Port Elizabeth contained no “free chlorine”, which is needed to kill off germs and bacteria.

The Department of Water Affairs recommended a level of between 0.3 and 0.6mg of chlorine per litre of water.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University water purification specialist Johan Barnard said chlorine levels could be low because of recent heavy rains.

Heavy rains meant more sediment was deposited in the city's dam, he said.

“Chlorine is used up faster in water if it has a high sediment level, leaving little (chlorine) left to fight bacteria lower down the system (pipeline).”

An outbreak of diarrhoea between January and April 2008 killed 131 babies, mainly in Aliwal North, Barkly East and Sterkspruit.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality lost its Blue Drop status earlier in the year after failing to score 97 percent for its water assessment. - Sapa