CSIR scientist and laboratory manager Wouter le Roux and quality manager of the environmental laboratory Calie Adlem say Stinkwater residents should stop the domestic use of water from hand-dug wells. Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - Stinkwater residents should seriously consider limiting or stopping their domestic use of water from hand-dug wells, a senior scientist and laboratory manager at the CSIR has said.

Wouter le Roux was speaking on the findings of a three-year study on the ground and surface-water quality of the community outside Hammanskraal. He said his team of scientists discovered that many residents in the area did not have access to piped water and had inherited a culture of using water from hand-dug wells.

But he explained that the wells exposed the community to various health risks that could lead to diseases and illness.

He said the water from the wells was untreated and should not be consumed, because it contained fluoride and nitrate with levels that exceeded drinkable standards.

Le Roux said the unsafe levels were acknowledged in numerous samples from the 144 water samples taken. It would be safer for residents to use the water distributed to the community in trucks provided by the City, he recommended.

“Unfortunately some of the residents seem to have the perception that the water from the trucks does not taste as good as the water from the well. They say they’ve been drinking water from the wells for a very long time, and it’s something that was passed down to them.

“We believe this water should be limited, and not be used for domestic use for residents to be on the safe side,” he pointed out.

“We started working in this area a number of years ago doing research about using sunlight to disinfect water and while we were working in that community, we realised people don’t have piped water.

“They made wells which they dug 2m or 3m deep and extract their water from there, but they also have pit toilets in the same yards.

“We decided to revisit the area to examine the groundwater quality and actually see how the lack of flush toilets and formal sanitation influenced their groundwater quality and what the risks would be.”

Le Roux said the water quality there was bad because it contained the escherichia coli (e-coli) bacteria, which is an indicator of pollution and it also contained high or elevated levels of nitrate.

He said boiling the water would help kill all micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites, and there would be no chance for infection. But that usually does nothing to mitigate risks associated with any chemical pollutants in the water.

For the latter, a different chemical approach was needed, he said.

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