ZVISHAVANE residents are fuming over dirty water that has been coming out of their taps for the past two weeks, and have expressed fears of a disease outbreak in the mining town.
However, the local authority insists that the water is safe for drinking despite the suspicious brown colour. Nonetheless, experts contend that the water needed further purification and was not safe for consumption as long as it had a brown colour.
Residents last week accused Zvishavane Town Council of gross negligence by failing to provide safe drinking water.
The residents, who have not bought the explanation proffered by council, are mulling engaging the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing over the matter.
Zvishavane Residents and Ratepayers Association chairperson Mr Tawanda Mudzviti told Sunday News that they were mobilising residents to sign a petition that will be handed to the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Midlands Cde Jason Machaya.
Mr Mudzviti said council officials should resign or be relieved of their duties for failing to deliver basic services to residents.
“This cannot go unchecked. Residents cannot continue being exposed to such gross negligence by council. We are sitting on a health time bomb yet council seems unmoved by our concerns. They (council) told us that the water is safe for drinking but we don’t believe it. We will leave no stone unturned until this issue is rectified. Someone should face the music at council,” fumed Mr Mudzviti.
A 45-year-old Mrs Ronia Mano of Makwasha high-density suburb said she boils the water first before as a precaution.
“Every time you fill up a glass you see the brown water. We have to boil it first before drinking. You can’t wash any white clothes using this water because they may discolour,” she said.
Other residents said they have since turned to borehole and bottled water.
“They are saying it is safe to drink but I don’t think so. The water is dirty. Over the past two weeks I have had to go out and buy some bottled water for drinking for my family,” said Mrs Prudence Ndlovu from Birthday.
“The water tastes a bit sandy, a bit gritty and you can actually see a bit of sand at the bottom of the glass.”
Zvishavane Town Council director of housing Mr Nhlanhla Ngwenya said there was nothing unusual with discoloured water insisting that it was safe for drinking. Mr Ngwenya said the water was getting its brown colour from the red soils at the town’s water source and said it was difficult for the local authority to remove the brown colour.
“We draw our water from a river source, Ngezi River, where there are red soils hence the brown colour. The water is, however, safe for drinking because it undergoes all the necessary purification processes. It is normal that our water turns brown during the rainy season and anyone who has stayed in Zvishavane long enough knows that,” he said.
Mr Ngwenya added: “It is difficult for us to remove the brownish colour because the water would need to stay in the reservoir tanks for a much longer period for it to settle and change colour. I must reiterate that the water is clean and residents should not be afraid to drink it.”
A civil and water engineer with a local authority in the Midlands Province, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity for professional reasons, claimed the brownish tinge in the water was a result of a shortage of chemicals during the water purification process.
He said a coagulant should be added to remove all impurities and make the water clean, something he suspected the Zvishavane Town Council was not doing.
“That’s a sign of shortage of water purification chemicals. The brown colour is from clay and with that colour the water can’t be said to be clean. They need to add a coagulant to clean that water,” he said.
A chemical engineer and a member of Water Institute of Southern Africa engineer Khonzaphi Dube concurred that if the water had a brown colour it would not be safe for drinking.
“If the water is brown from clay then it’s not clean, it has impurities. A coagulant should be added which binds the clay particles and make them bigger and heavier so that they settle at the bottom of the tank leaving the water sparkling clean,” he said.
This is not the first time that Zvishavane, which has over 43 000 residents has had water challenges sparking health concerns.
In January this year the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) cut water supplies to the town over a $129 000 debt.