Harare water quality frightens residents
HARARE - While attention has been turned towards the spreading waterborne diseases, residents in Harare are now raising concerns over the quality of water being supplied by the Harare City Council (HCC).
While health services director Prosper Chonzi claims the city’s water is safe to drink, its appearance seems to suggest otherwise.
The water being pumped by council has a cloudy and sometimes yellowish brown colour, with algae-like residue accumulating at the bottom of containers after it has been rested.
At times the water is completely muddy and cannot be consumed by residents for obvious reasons.
“Harare tap water is very safe to drink because it meets all the World Health Organisation standards. The only issue may be that it does not meet the smell and sight sense standards but it is very safe,” Chonzi said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said environmental conditions are some of the underlying problems that Harare faces.
Rusike added that perennial water shortages plus limited water chemicals mean Harare households are vulnerable to unhealthy environments.
He said because of the unreliable and prolonged water cuts residents are vulnerable to unsafe alternatives.
“The situation on the ground indicates that while infrastructures are present, they are old, poorly functioning and poor availability of safe water leads to sourcing of water from less protected, informal sources. Advice to boil water is difficult to follow during water and power cuts,” he said.
The CWGH director added that women are more susceptible to contracting diseases from unsafe water due to their gendered roles.
In 2015, heavy metals such as lead, mercury, toxic levels of iron and phosphates were traced in the waste water that eventually flows to Morton Jaffray Waterworks for purification.
HCC waste water manager Simon Muserere said chemicals such as phosphates in the water are commonly caused by soaps and detergents used daily.
He said if a phosphate ban is implemented, the city can reduce the quantity that is discharged into the water.
“If that ban is not there, countries like South Africa which have these bans can just dump their high phosphate products in Zimbabwe.
“So when we bath, do our laundry and go about other cleaning activities, those phosphates end up at the treatment plant,” he said.
According to WHO, lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones.
WHO advises that no levels of lead exposure are considered safe, however, poisoning by the metal is preventable.
It is stored in the teeth and bones where it accumulates over time. Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood.
Mercury poisoning disrupts any tissue it comes in contact with and can cause shock, cardiovascular collapse, acute renal failure and severe gastrointestinal damage.
In order to curb cases of water pollution and illegal trade effluent, HCC has drafted the Water Pollution and Trade Effluent Control by-law which regulates water pollution and effluent discharge into the environment.
The by-law has come at a time when the city is battling a lot of environmental, health and food security challenges due to pollution and effluent discharge.
According to the acting chamber secretary Charles Kandemiiri the by-law would make it a condition for all persons involved in the production or manufacture of goods resulting in effluent discharge to install pre-treatment facilities at their premises.
He said it was about time that council took a robust stance in the regulation to avoid water pollution in Harare.
“This will ensure that trade effluent is treated before discharge into the municipal sewer. It will also prohibit the discharge of trade effluent at undesignated points.
“The by-law also ensures that trade effluent and hazardous substances dumped into the sewer system should comply with council’s chemical standards,” he said.