City disputes OUTA Hammanskraal unhealthy water quality sample

Joint sampling conducted with the Gauteng Provincial Office of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) South African Human Rights Commission and the City of Tshwane on 20 June 2019


The City Of Tshwane MMC for Utility Services, Mr Abel Tau, has disputed Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) Hammanskraal water assessment conclusion saying they are based on one water sample taken on 05 July 2019, which revealed that the water is Not Fit for use as potable water and domestic use.

He said as per the SANS 241-1:2015 standard mentioned in OUTA’s letter, the one sample that has been used as a reference cannot be taken to represent the status of the water supplied to the Hammanskraal area.

He said the standard requires that a confirmatory sample be taken, in the case of a non-compliance, to confirm such non-compliance, “which is not the case in this instance as there are no re-sampling results provided”.

The MMC said OUTA, has been informed of their incorrect conclusion which is based on only one sample, especially when there was no resampling to confirm the non-compliance.

“It is worth mentioning that the source of the water sample, as well as the sampling procedure, is not known as it was not witnessed by the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality.

“Since this matter is already handled by the (SAHRC) and the national department concerned, the City has requested OUTA to allow the Chapter 9 Institution process to be concluded and all affected stakeholders will be kept informed of any developments.

Lois Moodley, Head of Communications at OUTA, said this is the second sample, “though another one was taken on December 2018, the sentiment is that the water quality is in an even worse state. OUTA has already taken a follow-up sample and we are awaiting the results thereof”.

Mr Moodly said Outa will also continue to monitor the water in the area through random sampling because legislation requires water to be fit for consumption at the point of consumption and the City should not try to shy away from their responsibility through media jargon. “The City must ensure that the people have access to clean water through the City’s water supply infrastructure”.

He said the sample indicated water that is unfit for consumption. “Would one sample be sufficient if it could prove fatalities through a drinking water source”?

Mr Moodly said instead, the City should counter OUTA’s results with their own track record of results in the same supply area and make weekly water quality results available if they are confident in their argument.

He said the samples presented by OUTA were conducted by independent, accredited professionals, not by OUTA or City staff. “Which I believe makes it more ethical. It was taken in a public space at a point of consumption supplied by the City’s infrastructure”.

Mr Moodley said OUTA appreciates the Chapter 9 Institution intervention such as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), however, citizens cannot wait for the State to act through slow processes whilst communities complain about illness and concerns over drinking water.

“We trust that the SAHRC will hold to account those who failed in their duties, but people need access to clean drinking water now!”

He said the City already reached out to OUTA to discuss these matters and to see whether there is an opportunity to work together in resolving the issue and that what is important is to note that the City is mandated to serve the public, not the other way around.

“Though OUTA appreciates a government that wants to work with the people, we will not restrict our efforts in holding those who fail in their duties to account.

“We will in this regard meet with the City on 13 August 2019 as per their invitation to engage and will continue to give feedback to the community regarding our water quality monitoring and progress,” Mr Moodly said.

The comment by MMC Tau follows after OUTA, an organization established to challenge corruption, maladministration, and abuse of taxpayers’ money, issued a letter of demand to the City of Tshwane calling for immediate action on the substandard potable water supplied by Magalies Water to Hammanskraal residents.

MR Julius Kleynhans, Operations Executive at OUTA, said as a non-partisan organization, OUTA is mandated to act in the interest of the people.

“We saw government in denial and stand-offs before and after the national election. “Citizens must stand up and demand their rights because we must all have access to safe drinking water”.

Mr Kleynhans said OUTA instructed an independent SANAS-accredited water laboratory to conduct a random water sample in Hammanskraal. The results indicate that the water is not fit for consumption. The sample was taken on 5 July 2019 at the Hammanskraal Metro Police Regional Office in Region 2 and came out to be worse than the sample taken during December 2018.

The December 2018 sample followed after the community of Hammanskraal approached OUTA to monitor the quality of their potable water to ensure oversight of the Magalies Water Board and the City of Tshwane because of concerns about the water safety.

The results indicated high concentrations of nitrites (NO₂) and nitrates (NO₃) which pose a chronic health risk to some babies. A diet adequate in Vitamin C partially protects against the adverse effects of these chemicals. The results found a total viable count of 8720 CFU/ml, which is far higher than the accredited standard of <1000 CFU/ml for healthy water. “This is an indicator of the presence of microorganisms such as bacteria in the water, though no E. coli was found,” Mr Kleynhans said.

He said the samples were based on the assessment of variables analyzed in comparison to the SANS 241-1:2015 Drinking Water Standard (SABS, 2015) and the quality of domestic water supply (WRC, 1998). The tested water sample was found not fit for use as potable water and for domestic use.

Mr Kleynhans said the residents told OUTA that the Tshwane metro has violated their right to human dignity and access to clean water.

“We call on Tshwane to take urgent action on this matter,” said Mr Kleynhans.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Gauteng Provincial Office of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has, on Monday, 22 July 2019, said the Department has noted the outcry for substandard quality of water in Hammanskraal following the OUTA sampling.

On its part, the Department has received the results from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory following a joint sampling is conducted with the South African Human Rights Commission and the City of Tshwane on 20 June 2019.

The purpose of the joint sampling was to determine if the drinking water is fit for human consumption as per the South African National Standard (SANS) 241:

In this regard, the Department will, as a matter of urgency, meet with the City of Tshwane to discuss the joint water analysis report with a view to addressing the water quality challenges in the area.

The Department also issued an application for an interdict against the City of Tshwane under case number 16076/19. The City of Tshwane made numerous requests for indulgence in filling their opposing papers and still failed to file their court documents, despite the indulgence of the Court.

The Department is therefore in the process of setting the matter down on an unopposed court roll for 20 August 2019.