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Cholera outbreak: Water and Sanitation Department probes manhole spilling sewage into Vaal River


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Cholera outbreak: Water and Sanitation Department probes manhole spilling sewage into Vaal River

Water Tap
Photo by Bloomberg

29th May 2023

By: News24Wire


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The Department of Water and Sanitation is investigating the sewage-spilling manhole in the Vaal River. It has also issued a directive to the Ngwathe Local Municipality to stop polluting the river.

This comes after AfriForum and Save Ngwathe reported that the Vaal River was infected with cholera. 


So far, one person has died of cholera in the Free State.

The civic organisations said water samples taken from the Vaal River in Parys on Tuesday last week tested positive for cholera.


The department, however, stated that tap water in Ngwathe was safe for consumption despite the cholera outbreak.

Department spokesperson Wisane Mavasa said it had conducted water quality tests on all sources of drinking water and could confirm that "the analyses indicated that treated water reticulated to taps in the area complied with the South African National Standards 241 quality requirements and was, therefore suitable for human consumption".

Mavasa said it must be noted that the point in the Vaal River where AfriForum took a sample of water and found cholera bacterium was near a sewage-spilling manhole that flows into the Vaal River.

"It is not surprising that raw water from that part of the river tested positive for cholera. However, this does not mean that treated water supplied by the municipality contains cholera."

Last Wednesday, the Free State health department voiced its concern about the increasing number of cholera cases in Ngwathe.

The provincial department said a 33-year-old woman from Vredefort died after she was admitted to Parys Hospital and diagnosed with diarrhoea. The province reported eight positive cases of cholera. 

The civic groups said an accredited laboratory took water samples at different locations under the supervision of a water specialist.

They said the first water sample taken at the outlet of the waterworks was not contaminated with cholera.

The second water sample taken from a residential house in Parys tested negative for cholera but was infected with E. coli.

The third water sample was taken in the Vaal River, approximately 10 metres downstream from a manhole pouring sewage into the river for some time. 

"It is this very water sample that is contaminated with Cholera and E. coli," their statement said. 

AfriForum and Save Ngwathe appealed to residents of all the towns under Ngwathe municipality to refrain from drinking tap unless it is boiled first.

AfriForum's district coordinator for the Mooi River, Alta Pretorius said: "The help that AfriForum has been offering for the last two years has been ignored repeatedly, and now innocent people are paying with their lives."

According to the two organisations, there were several places where the raw sewage flowed into the river due to infrastructure that was burnt out or unavailable, load shedding and the fact that there was no emergency assistance such as generators or emergency pumps.

The groups said it was extremely worrying that the withdrawal point for Vredefort's water was only a kilometre from the sewage spill.

"It is precisely in Vredefort where there are also confirmed cases of cholera and where a resident died from this virus," they said.

In Gauteng, 23 people from Hammanskraal - which falls under the City of Tshwane, have died of cholera.


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