South Africa: Prelim Tests Show Cape Town's Discoloured Water Poses No Health Risk, Says City

Preliminary tests done on the discoloured water in Cape Town's distribution system has found it does not pose a health risk, although residents are advised to continue boiling it before use.

According to the City of Cape Town, the Faure water treatment plant had received water from the Steenbras Upper Dam as well as the Palmiet River whose water had a naturally occurring "tea" colour caused by the soil structure, fynbos and vegetation.

During the treatment process, drinking water is dosed with coagulating chemicals, resulting in natural particles in the water to "flock together" and removed through settling, clarifying the water to the clear appearance usually seen coming from taps.

An error in the chemical dosage led to the brownish colour not being completely removed.

"As soon as the City's bulk water department became aware of the problem, the Faure service reservoir was isolated from supplying the system and supply was switched to the Blackheath service reservoir," said a City spokesperson.

"A series of water tests are underway in phases and the results of preliminary tests undertaken by the City's scientific services laboratories have thus far indicated the water does not pose a health risk - nonetheless residents are encouraged to boil the water if they are still noting discolouration to be on the safe side."

The Faure water treatment plant provides between 150 million and 180 million litres of water - about a third of the 550 million litres currently used daily by residents across the city.

Felicia van Wyk of Delft told News24 her son had noticed the discolouration on Sunday while making himself something to drink.

She had thought maintenance work was being done on the sewerage pipes, resulting in the murkiness.

Van Wyk opened her tap and ran the water in a bucket, waiting for it to run clear.

By Tuesday, it was still discoloured but much less so.

Henry Booysen of Belhar said the water coming from his kitchen tap had tasted "a tad sandy" and was not as clear as usual.

"But I wasn't aware that there were any drastic changes in the water and that it needs to be boiled," he added, saying he had not been adversely affected after consuming it.

Duncan Skippers of Firgrove said his tap water appeared fine but the water in his toilet was murky and "not clear, without a doubt".

The City said while the problem had been contained, there might still be pockets within the reticulation network that still contained discoloured water.

News24

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