Poor residents forced to drink dirty water

2012-02-16 19:53

Johannesburg - Carolina residents in Mpumalanga who cannot afford bottled water have resorted to drinking the town's polluted water to quench their thirst.

Many have fallen ill and ended up in local clinics and hospitals.

"Most of the unemployed people here are forced to drink tap water and then they become ill with stomach problems," resident Jordon Mayaba told Sapa in a telephone interview on Thursday.

The father of three lives at the Crossroads informal settlement in Carolina's Silobela location.

"Everybody cannot afford to buy the water and on some days there [are] 11, 12, 13 people per day that are taken to clinics."

He said that five litres of bottled water costs R10 and lasts a day for a family of five.
"It's just not enough."

Mining problem

The water is used for cooking and drinking, while the contaminated tap water is used for washing clothes and cleaning homes.

Other people in the settlement have resorted to taking water from a nearby church.

"The situation is very bad and sometimes no water even comes out of the taps, like today."

The town's Democratic Alliance councillor Helen McGinn said the municipality was trying to find a solution, but stressed the problem was with mining.

"These mines are allowed to develop and proliferate along the catchment area without the proper checks being done. When we realised it was contaminated, people tried putting all sorts of things into the water to make it better."

Too much iron in water

Beeld newspaper reported that municipal authorities were pouring lime into the water in an attempt to raise the pH level. Suspected seepage from two abandoned coal mines in the Nkomati catchment area had made the water too acidic, and thus undrinkable.

Tests conducted by authorities also revealed iron levels in the water were seven times higher than the acceptable level for drinking water, the newspaper reported. Aluminium levels were 140 times higher, manganese levels 3 000 times higher, and sulphate levels twice as high.

Problems began in January, when residents noticed the water tasted strange. Local authorities warned residents on January 11 that the water was not fit for human consumption.

McGinn said when bleach was poured into the water, it turned rusty and looked like jelly.

"When you wash clothes they come out brown."

She said schools remained open as water tankers were dispatched to the area.

The water supplying the town, and two bordering areas, flows into the Nooitgedacht Dam and from there into the Komati River, she explained. Ongoing meetings were underway to find a solution. The water affairs department was looking into the matter.

Dead fish

Resident Roland Klopper, who runs a Superkwik shop in the area, told Sapa the problem had reached "dire proportions".

"Dead fish have already been found in Bosmans Spruit. What's happening here is terrible."

On Sunday night, Klopper poured a cup of chlorine into his swimming pool and it turned dark red.
"It messed up my whole pool system."

He said bottled water was costing residents too much and water tankers were not supplying enough.

It was unclear what the population of the town was. Some estimated it to be over 15 000.

Attempts to reach the Albert Luthuli local municipality water head were unsuccessful. The municipal manager was off work until Monday. describes Carolina as a wetland region of Mpumalanga boasting "exceptional natural beauty and dotted with an abundance of shimmering lakes and rivers".

  • Whitty - 2012-02-16 20:07

    Always the case, ONLY THE POOR MAN FEEL IT..

      Shadoz66 - 2012-02-16 20:21

      The previous owners of the mines must pay for the water.

      Max - 2012-02-16 21:01

      Whitty, you must respect the iron will of the poor people in this country to persevere with getting shafted by the ANC election after election. Any person with a lesser will would have long ago told the ANC to go back to the bush.

      Gerhard - 2012-02-16 21:15

      Sorry Max, but if they vote for anyone else, they will not get free T-shirt. It's all about the free T-shirt.

      Glen - 2012-02-16 21:15

      Good one Max...

      Kgomotso - 2012-02-16 21:34

      Max you are talking nonsense AMD is not caused by ANC.

  • abrie.burger - 2012-02-16 20:17

    Poor people... Maybe next time they won't vote for the same useless political party? Guess again!!! They will be given a t-shirt before the next elections and they will vote for the same useless party give them dirty water to drink.

  • jurgen.eksteen - 2012-02-16 20:33

    In this country, the water you are drinking is a direct result of the way you voted!!!

  • customdesign - 2012-02-16 20:35

    Abrie you and Jurgens need to learn to read before you post- the problem was only discovered in January- probably after much rains, and it is due to abandoned mines in the catchment area. The DA in the area are trying to solve the problem, but it is not a political one they gave their residents, it is one they inherited from upstream in the catchment area- a mine which was probably running in Apartheid still and which did not do a proper cleanup of the mine once they were done mining- whenever that was. Shadoz is right- the previous owners of those mines must take responsibility, but in reality they have most likely already squandered that money and the cleanup is going to be expensive.

      Gerhard - 2012-02-16 20:52

      So the problem was picked up in January? It is now February. And people are getting sick but somehow you still manage to blame apartheid? Just fix it for crying out loud and stop trying to apportion blame. Fix it now, save lives and then try blame someone. Not try find someone to blame, let hundreds of people die while trying to find someone to pay for it. Your logic defies logic. Oh wait, you want lots of people to die so you can make this an international incident. Which proves yet again, you do not care about the people, you are fighting a "cause".

      Gerhard - 2012-02-16 20:53


  • marina.poniatowska - 2012-02-16 20:57

    This is so sad. No one should live like this.

  • Phillip - 2012-02-16 21:04

    Well done anc,you are killing your own people!!!!!

      Gerhard - 2012-02-16 21:17

      Not to worry Phillip, the social grants make sure they replace them at a rate that far exceeds the amount lost.

  • Antionette Oberholzer - 2012-02-17 07:17

    boil the water?

  • Antionette Oberholzer - 2012-02-17 07:18

    boil the water?

  • Cheryl Meyrick - 2012-02-17 12:08

    No!! It's not just the poor who are feeling this! My in laws who are well to do have spent thousands on water purification systems and resulted to hand washing their clothes with lemon juice in the bath to avoid stained clothes! Everyone is feeling it!

  • Dirk - 2012-02-21 11:05

    Check out and like our Facebook page! Pauw Engineering has solutions to all your water quality problems.

  • Tim - 2012-02-28 06:45


  • Cor - 2012-03-04 20:53

    My Parents are residents of Carolina,and even if this does not clean the water, I believe there has to be a "Group action" law suit against the municipality and the Mine/s responible for this disaster.(If they can find the owners.) I do think the Municipality is also responsible, because if they would have tested the water on a consistent basis, they would have known a lot earlier about this problem.I have been to this waterworks before and seen in what sorry state of affairs it is. Their problems have started long before mine acid water has seeped into the drinking water. Many times, the resoirvoir was not properly cleaned(I was told.)and when you opened the taps, the sediment coming from the bottom of the reservoir caused a brown colour in the tap water. People have to now, either drive many Km's to get safe drinking water or buy expensive bottled water, but they still have to pay their municipal account for water. Why, to get sick???? No, to paying your water bill to get sick!!

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