Hannah Omarjee | firstname.lastname@example.org
7 June 2023 | 17:00 CAT
2 min read
Residents of KwaZulu-Natal can sigh in relief as scientists have confirmed no traces of Escherichia coli (E.coli) in the water samples tested in Durban. This comes ahead of the July school holidays when there is expected to be an influx of tourists in the province. The Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology Director, Professor Faizal Bux, spoke to Radio Islam International about the findings.
Professor Bux worked with the Durban University of Technology (DUT) to test the water samples. He said it is understandable that people are concerned about the water quality, especially after the incident in Hammanskraal. However, the tap water in the eThekwini municipality has been thoroughly tested over the past six months and has met water quality standards. Nineteen samples were collected from the municipality, including the south, west, and north areas. According to the tests, the water meets the standards for potable water quality; thus, it is safe to drink.
In the water industry, E coli serves as an indicator organism. Professor Bux said when testing for E coli in coliforms, they can determine if other disease-causing organisms or pathogens are present in the sample. If E coli is present, it indicates a high likelihood of other harmful organisms.
He said, “Then obviously, we further extend that study into looking for these other pathogens.”
According to Professor Bux, South Africa’s sanitation system is pitiful. In 2021, the Department of Water and Sanitation audited wastewater treatment plants and found that over 90% did not meet the required standards. Many of these plants are in critical condition.
He said,” What that implies is the wastewater treatment plant is failing, and fluids are being discharged to the wastewater plant.”
This increases the likelihood that disease-causing pathogens are present in the water. Professor Bux claims that removing these pathogens is one of the primary objectives of a wastewater treatment plant. However, South Africa’s sanitation situation is worrying. He said a good example is the Hammanskraal situation, “I do not know exactly the cause of the problem, but maybe just to say that our wastewater sanitation systems are not working in this country.”
Professor Bux advised that if the water you are collecting is unclear, it is unsafe to use for any purpose, including cooking. However, if it is clear, boiling the water to eliminate potential pathogens is recommended. When collecting water from a stream, leaving it overnight in a clean bucket with a teaspoon of Jik can also help eliminate harmful pathogens. It is crucial to remember that drinking this water is still not recommended.
Listen to the full interview with Junaid Kharsany on The Daily Round Up here