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Bulawayo poor water quality sees increase in waterborne diseases

by Staff reporter
02 Sep 2021 at 06:13hrs | Views
BULAWAYO is recording an increase in waterborne diseases as the local authourity grapples with inconsistences in the city's water quality despite its treatment chemicals meeting national standards.

Bulawayo City Council's (BCC) minutes released yesterday says there are a lot of inconsistencies in the city's water quality. Some of the questions council is grappling with is whether there is any relationship between the percentage decrease in water quality during some months and the increase in sewer blockages in the city. Dysentery cases increased by more than 100 percent in July compared to the June figures.

"There was an increase in diarrhoea (187) and dysentery (7) cases reported in the month of July 2021 compared to the previous month (162 and 3 respectively)," reads the report.

There were however no fatalities that were recorded during the same period. The report states that water quality in areas such as Emganwini suburb remains unsatisfactory as council was only providing temporary relief to residents.

"The Emganwini area was monitored from May 2021 when complaints of poor water quality were first reported. The results generally continued to be unsatisfactory. Flushing of the line temporarily solved the problem, only to revert to the unsatisfactory results. The Engineering Services Department was advised of the unsatisfactory results and need for a lasting intervention in the area," reads the report.

While council's water treatment chemicals were 100 percent compliant to the expectations of the Standards Association of Zimbabwe, there is a concern over the overall potable water quality. BCC's report shows that the city's water quality stood at 90 percent in January before dropping to 68 percent in February, rising to 88 percent in March and then decreasing to 85 percent in April. It jumped to 91 percent in May before dropping to 88 percent in June then decreased to 69 percent in July.

According to the report, the council is grappling to understand what could be causing the decrease in the city's water quality.

"There has generally been a decrease in percentage in the microbial water quality in the last three months, questions raised could be; is there any relationship between percentage decrease with a sudden increase in sewer blockages in the city? Have we achieved a constant pressure supply within our system to prevent any contamination that might occur in the distribution system?" reads the report. In the report, council admits that it is illegally discharging effluent into the environment.

"During the month of July 2021 wastewater discharged from municipal sewage treatment plants to the natural environment did not meet the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) effluent disposal requirements," reads the report.

"Constant breakdowns of infrastructure and low inflows at most of the treatment plants continued to compromise the quality of final effluent disposed into the environment. Removal of organic pollutants and nutrients (phosphate and ammonia) remain a big challenge for the majority of the treatment plants. It should be noted that only the final effluent or reclaimed water was tested due to the feared corona virus possibility in sewage."

The report also states that the council has had several challenges in clearing blocked sewers owing to the outbreak of Covid-19 which grounded some of its employees.

"The cumulative chokes backlog recorded this month decreased to 281 from 324 recorded last month. The major challenge for the section was the rising number of Covid-19 cases which resulted in some instances in the quarantine of the whole team, where a member has tested positive. Five out of eight teams were in quarantine and isolation between 20 July 2021 and the 2 August 2021. This greatly reduced staffing levels available to attend to the outstanding backlog of blocked sewers throughout the city hence negatively impacting on the reaction time for attending to blocked sewer reports," read the report.

Over the past year, the city's water quality and sewer system has come under spotlight following the outbreak of diarrhoea which led to the death of 15 residents in Luveve suburb.

Residents of old suburbs such as Makokoba have been grappling with raw sewage flowing into their houses from burst sewer pipes for a long time now. Last year EMA dragged BCC to court for failing to upgrade its water treatment plants and sewer systems which has resulted in raw sewage flowing into water bodies which provide potable water to residents. BCC has said aged infrastructure and vandalism of sewer pipes is contributing to constant sewer bursts.

Source - the herald
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