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waterval boven water intake

Boven water woes – Can you drink it?

When THG, after numerous complaints from residents, initially reported on the quality of the water being piped to Waterval Boven residents in our August 2014 issue, we were shocked. At the time, it was clearly demonstrated to us by local resident, Rudolph Pretorius, that the water being supplied to his and other homes and businesses in Waterval Boven was of such poor quality and contained such a high sediment content that it was, to all intents and purposes, unusable.

On further investigation of these complaints THG ascertained in an interview with the ELM contractor responsible for water supplies and quality, Dave Hepworth, that the problems being experienced were “temporary” and would be permanently corrected once the upgrading of the sand filter system at the Boven waterworks (which was underway at that time) were completed. Whereas the maintenance work has long since been completed and the situation did improve for a while, it would seem that the problem is back. And, if anything, judging by the samples drawn and shown to THG journalists recently, the problem is worse. Pipes have now become so clogged by murky water (the summer rains have, of course, added to this problem) that water pressure is almost non-existent in many homes in the town. The water is not only completely undrinkable, but cannot even be used for showering, laundry or even doing the dishes - owing to the high sediment levels.

As far as THG is aware, the raw water from the Elands river is still being treated with Lime to correct the Ph level but it would seem that the flocculant (essential to allow settling and subsequent removal of suspended solids) is, for whatever reason, no longer being added. Thus the “murky, brown” colour and sediment. Perhaps more importantly, whether or not the raw water is still being treated with chlorine (vital for the elimination of hazardous bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms), is seemingly anyone’s guess. In an effort to track down the root of the problem, THG journalists paid a visit to inspect both of Boven’s water intake points. Whereas the pumping station in the town itself (located near the FET College) is, despite reports of being underpowered, nonetheless both functional and operational. This, however, is not the case with the other, older, intake point located at Goedgeluk between Boven and Machado.

As can be seen from the accompanying images, this ancient and rusted intake is clogged with reeds and other debris – without even a simple mesh screen to keep out floating matter. Not to mention the numerous but, as yet, unsubstantiated reports coming from Machadodorp that raw sewage continues to leak into the Elands due to the expensive but seemingly ineffectual new pump system at the Machado sewage works! Possibly a whole new and upgraded version of the old tongue-in-cheek Afrikaans saying: “Daar’s ‘n d**l in die drinkwater en a man is dors…”.

In keeping with many other associated poor service delivery problems currently being experienced by not only Boven residents, but residents in ELM’s other three towns as well, there is no quick-fix solution in sight. As with other ELM service delivery complaints, matters have indeed been escalated to both Provincial and National government level and it is hoped that serious but nonetheless basic matters such as the provision of safe, clean and drinkable water for all will be (ultimately) attended to. But in the meantime, citizens drink ELM’s water most definitely at their own risk.

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