High Court judge Justice Siyabona Musithu has directed Norton Town Council to stop discharging raw effluent into Manyame Dam, which serves potable water to Harare and its satellite towns.
Justice Musithu also ordered the council to rehabilitate sewer treatment plants. The ruling was delivered in favour of the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) in a matter in which the organisation sought in January an order to compel Norton Town Council to rehabilitate, repair and upgrade its water treatment plants and sewer systems to ensure proper treatment of effluent. Ema also sought relief compelling the council to dispose of effluent in line with regulations.
In its application, Ema contended that Norton Town Council was struggling to provide local residents with potable water.
In his ruling handed down on May 27, Justice Musithu ordered the local authority to comply with the order within three months. The ruling read: "The first respondent (Norton Town Council) be, and is hereby interdicted from discharging raw or untreated effluent or sewage into the aquatic environment or water sources in contravention of Section 57 of the Environmental Management Act (Cap 20:27).
"The respondents be and are hereby directed to rehabilitate, repair and upgrade their water and sewer treatment plants and pipes to the satisfaction of the application to ensure that effluent is properly treated and in the blue class category and that there are no more leakages and spillages into the environment within three months of this order."
Norton Town and council clerk Kizito Muhomba were cited as the first and second respondents, respectively.Situated about 40 kilometres from Harare, Norton's population stands at more than 100 000 people, most of whom rely on water from Manyame Dam. The town has three main dams that support thriving fishery projects and mining operations.
According to Ema's court application, filed by the director of the Environmental Protection Unit, Christopher Mushava, the body highlighted that the disposal of untreated effluent into water bodies presents grave health risks.
"I firmly believe this is a proper case in which the relief sought ought to be granted. The harm caused by the actions and inactions of Norton Town Council has created a serious health risk which may result in devastating epidemics," Mushava said.
"Besides health risks, such activities send a negative perception about the country as the safe investment destination thus negatively affecting the drive towards the attainment of Vision 2020."
He also argued that the delivery of clean potable water was crucial towards unlocking export markets for agricultural produce, the predominant economic activity in Norton. Ema also highlighted that preserving clean water sources mitigated the adverse effects of climate change-induced droughts.
The High Court ruling, which has a bearing on the three million residents living in the capital, follows a recent quality assessment report which revealed that Harare City Council is pumping into residents' homes water contaminated with deadly toxins which can cause serious damage to the liver and central nervous system.
The toxins are found in the algae engulfing major water bodies that supply the city with water, including Lake Chivero and Manyame.According to the report, the eight chemicals used by council for purification cannot eliminate two of the deadly toxins found in the water.
Various species of algae such as anaebena sp. and microcystis aeruginosa which are found on Lake Chivero, which was until recently Harare's sole source of potable water, were identified during water treatment trials conducted at Morton Jaffray Treatment Plant located downstream of the lake.
Most local authorities are struggling to mobilise foreign currency required to import water treatment chemicals, with Harare needing about US$3 million every month.