Bloemhof reeling from water failure

2014-05-30 05:00
(Picture: Sapa)

(Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The North West town of Bloemhof was still reeling late on Thursday from a water-depleted week that saw a baby dying, schools shutting down and back-up water tanks running out.

By nightfall, the municipality was confident that water had been restored since a sewage contamination caused a shut-down on Friday.

But residents of Boitumelong township were sceptical.

"The water is back but smells of shit. It is not drinkable," said Mirriam Olifant.

"We can't put our lives in danger again," she told Sapa.

Several residents kept their taps running in the hope that the brown water would return to normal.

As the sun was beginning to set, the smell of sewage penetrated the air.

Resident Ingrid Mojaki told Sapa she feared for her domesticated animals when there was no water.

"My ducks and goats almost died of thirst," she said as her ducks were taking a dip in the water.

Inside her house, the struggle song "Malema wa ba bola" (Malema can you see them) was playing on her CD player, referring to Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.

More than 200 people were hospitalised with diarrhoea this week in the water-depleted North West town which also left the police and municipal offices without water.

North West health department spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane confirmed that a baby had died on Wednesday after contracting severe diarrhoea from the contamination.

He said claims of a cholera outbreak had not yet been confirmed.

"Cholera can only be declared when there have been laboratory tests done. We have not declared it cholera. We took samples from the water to go test them. We have not received the results from the laboratory."

In Bloemhof CBD, people were carrying a five-litre water bottle they bought at shops.

Lekwa-Teemane municipal manager Andrew Makwapane blamed a contractor for Bloemhof's water contamination.

"We know there was a sewage spillage and there was a contractor in Extension five in Boitumelong who was supposed to fix the problem - but he abandoned his work due to protest riots in the area," said Makwapane.

He said that if somebody was responsible for the contamination, the municipality would take the necessary steps.

Water testing

Makwapane said tests were being carried out to determine the cause of the diarrhoea. The results were expected on Friday.

Civil rights group Afriforum said it would conduct its own tests on the water.

By Thursday afternoon, water in the tankers was depleted and people resorted to taking water from swimming pools.

Violent protests erupted in the area in April when residents torched several buildings, including a municipal office, clinic and houses belonging to municipality employees. The mayor's house was also set alight.

Makwapane said Bloemhof's water system had been cleaned, he however, urged people to boil water before use.

Earlier in the day, Boitumelong residents queued to fill containers with contaminated water from what appeared to be the only working tap in the area in a yard.

They said they needed the water even though it was impure.

"Our toilets are stinking. They are full because we don't have water," resident Meisie Kgomo told Sapa.

"Our kids have been returned from school. [We] can't bath, can't cook, we need clean water as soon as possible."

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  health  |  service delivery  |  water

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