2 August 2012

Zimbabwe: Delivery of Wrong Water Treatment Chemical Politicised

Photo: Zisize Education Trust
A child pushes a wheelbarrow with water.

press release

Events surrounding the delivery of a wrong water treatment chemical at Morton Jaffrey Water Treatment Works in Harare on 24 July 2012 have shown that residents of the city were never in danger of poisoning.

The Deputy Mayor of Harare, Councillor Emmanuel Chiroto said this at a Press Conference held in Harare today.

The Press Conference follows reports that on the date in question at around 0710 hours, council employees at Morton Jaffrey Water Works received a consignment of Sodium Cyanide for water treatment instead of Aluminium Sulphate.

Sodium Cyanide is a poisonous chemical.

Clr Chiroto, the Ward 42 Councillor for Hatcliffe, said the issue of water must never be politicized and politicians must find another platform to criticize each other. "At no time did we receive a wrong chemical. Thirteen steps are taken when receiving chemicals for use at Morton Jaffrey. Only two steps were taken before it was discovered that the consignment was flawed. At no time was the containers unpacked or off-loaded for use. We will continue to give residents clean and safe water," said Councillor Chiroto.

Among the steps taken to receive chemicals for water treatment, the receiving attendants at water treatment plants invite the foreman, resident chemist and loss control officer to the receiving bay after a vehicle is allowed access into the premises. In a process that also involves the quality assurance officer, the foreman breaks the seal, in the case of a container or opens a tent in the case of granular consignment. After this procedure, the resident chemist compares the consignment documents and consignment labels in the presence of the other officials.

Supporting the deputy mayor, the Harare City Council Chief Executive, Dr Tendai Mahachi said at no time were the lives of people in danger because employees at Morton Jaffrey never received the consignment. He said council has robust procedures to handle the delivery of chemicals.

"Alarm is raised when two things happen. First, when packaging is not normal and when the labeling itself is wrong. If it's poison, we say to our employees don't sample, send it out," he said.

According to the council officials, this is not the first time that council has rejected deliveries at its water treatment plants.

"There are times when we have rejected Aluminium Sulphate which was sub-standard. There is a time when salt was delivered instead of water treatment chemicals," said Dr Mahachi, adding that in all the cases, receipt of the deliveries was never done.

Investigations by the City Council have confirmed that control systems at water treatment plants are robust and there are skilled employees who are able to differentiate chemicals even before sampling. There is also a responsible management team that is effective.

Over and above, the MDC-led City Council has autonomous teams that are authorized to act without unnecessary consultation with senior management. This is contrary to what residents of Harare have been made to believe by some sections of the media.

Speaking on the water situation in the capital, Engineer Christopher Zvobgo, the Director of Water said in the past two weeks there have been serious challenges caused by lack of adequate chemicals, obsolete plants and the weather. The worst affected areas due to these challenges have been Hatcliffe and Dzivarasekwa.

Meanwhile, starting today, the mayor will be issuing monthly reports on the water situation, waste management and the state of affairs of the city.

The people's struggle for real change: Let's finish it!!!

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