Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Millions in Durban exposed to poisoned water

You've probably drunk water that will cause cancer but 'don't worry' says the government. You can trust them, right?

That how it works in the New! Improved! South Africa!™ : Do no maintenance, wait until it breaks, then try and fix.

See also; Rivers of filth across Kwazulu-Natal
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More than 131 babies die in water contamination
Minister admits to dirty water problem

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About 3,5 million people could be exposed to cancer in the Ethekwini region and some parts of Pietermaritzburg.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for agriculture and environmental affairs Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said studies showed elevated levels of mercury in streams around Durban.

But the department has called on communities not to panic.

The mercury levels were detected in some samples of soil, vegetables and fish in the eThekwini municipality.

Mercury is a heavy silvery-white toxic liquid that can cause cancer. It is often a by-product of a manufacturing process.

Khulekani Ntshangase, spokesman for the department, said mercury was deadly.

“We have not yet established where it is coming from. We know that it is formed by chemical waste,” he said.

The studies were conducted by the Medical Research Council after an investigation into human exposure to mercury in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mthimkhulu said people should not panic as preliminary findings indicated that the water was safe for human consumption.

“We will do everything necessary to protect people from contracting viruses,” he said.

He said although the quality analysis of potable water in the areas was lower than the World Health Organisation’s threshold values, the threat did not pose any risk to public health.

“In response, a technical task team made up of the [national] Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, eThekwini municipality and uMngeni Water was set up to find a suitable management of the situation,” said Mthimkhulu.

Mthimkhulu said the task team commissioned a sampling of the area and the results seemed to confirm high levels of mercury.

The scope of the emergency response was extended to include Inanda Dam (which supplies drinking water to Durban) and surrounding rivers – uMngeni, Msunduzi and Mngcweni – Wiggins Waterworks and Nagle Dam,” he said.

Mthimkhulu said the mercury may have come from chemical factories.

“People can drink the water from the Inanda Dam, it is safe,” he said.

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