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'Tap water is making us sick'

People are thinking tap water is causing gastro and diarrhoea. Picture: Independent Media

People are thinking tap water is causing gastro and diarrhoea. Picture: Independent Media

Published Mar 23, 2017


Cape Town – People on the Cape Flats are worried that tap water is causing gastro and diarrhoea.

The Daily Voice received complaints from concerned people about tap water smelling and tasting moldy.

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Some local doctors have noted an increase in patients with stomach ailments.

The City of Cape Town has warned that the last 10 percent of dam water is “unusable” and as dams run dry, there are fears that the limited supply could be contaminated.

Currently, dam levels are at 28.6 percent, or an effective 18.6 percent.

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Omar Toefy posted on Facebook: “Had both my daughters at the hospital because of tummy bugs and vomiting. I realised that vomiting and runny tummy occurs when drinking water from the tap! I rather buy water.”

Eva Hendricks posted: “My whole family had gastro last week, you can taste the water does not taste right and it smells bad.”

Worryingly, Dr Harold Groenewald says he has seen an increase in the number of gastro cases at his practice at Town Centre in Mitchells Plain.

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On Wednesday alone, he confirmed he treated four patients with gastro viral infections.

“This year there has been an awful lot of cases of diarrhoea,” he says.

“From my personal experience, for this time of the year, it’s definitely up from previous years.”

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He added that the bugs don’t last very long, “24 hours and it’s over”.

However, Dr Ellapen Rapiti, who has a practice in Eastridge, believes it’s the hot weather and people’s bad eating habits, and not dirty tap water, that are making them ill.

“The weather and food left out too long impact bodies in a big way,” he says.

“If it was water then a rapid increase in these cases would have been seen. The majority of patients have gastro because it’s gastro season.”

Professor EJ Pool, who specialises in Medical Biosciences at the University of the Western Cape, says: “Some bacteria and viruses can pass the filters [at drinking water plants], but chlorine added to water kills most of these.”

He suggests that people boil tap water before drinking.

The Daily Voice also contacted three pharmacies to ask if they have seen an unusual increase in gastro cases, but none of them did.

M Kem in Bellville, Jafmed in Ottery and Golden Acre Pharmacy in Cape Town city centre all agree that the annual diarrhoea season was to blame.

“People also need to be more hygienic and teach their children to practice hygiene daily,” a Jafmed pharmacist added.

Councillor Xanthea Limberg, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, denied water supplied by the City causes gastro.

She said the funny smell and taste of tap water was because of a naturally occurring mineral called geosmin, which has an “earthy, musty taste and odour”.

“It poses no threat to human health,” Limberg emphasised.

“There has been geosmin in the water that has been drawn from the Theewaterskloof Dam."

“The City has removed it using Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC) in the water treatment process. However, even minute concentrations can still have an effect on taste/smell due to the incredible sensitivity of the human palate to the compound."

“We would like to assure residents that the water remains safe to drink. Water quality is closely monitored via a large number of water samples analysed according to the stringent South African National Standards (SANS 241:2015) requirements.”

Regarding cases of gastro, she reminded residents that it is still diarrhoea season.

Daily Voice

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