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Nelson Mandela Bay drought leads to health scare, ‘fake’ news over drinking water

Written by Max Matavire

A viral message about illness caused by poor quality water has caused panic in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape. Residents are concerned about their health due to what they say is the poor quality of drinking water supplied by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality (NMMM).

Nelson Mandela Bay is in the midst of a severe drought, with drinking water a worrying levels. Now, a health scare has gone viral, confusing resident about the quality of the already scarce drinking water.

The drought has severely affected the region’s water, with all five of its major supply dam levels dwindling. The municipality has estimated that by July, the entire metro will run out of drinking water if stricter water conservation measures are not implemented.

A widely circulated message warns residents of the dangers of drinking the water. However, the municipality has “rubbished” the message even describing it as “fake.”

Part of the message, distributed on mobile phone and Facebook and purports to have been written by a Gqebherha (Port Elizabeth) doctor, reads:

“We have seen about 20 cases of salmonella/thyphi waterborne bacteria coming through trauma and ampha/pathcare daily in PE. Tests are starting to be run, but it is possible that the dam levels are so low that the silt at the bottom is being drenched up with lots of anaerobic bacteria. Be careful with the drinking of tap water.”

‘Fake news’ says municipality

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality (NMMM) has since dismissed this warning, describing it as “fake.”

“The municipality is worried about the so called safe message going around. That is fake news. The municipality would like to assure consumers that it continues to strictly monitor its water quality on a regular basis and it conforms with SANS 241 drinking water standards,” the municipality said in a statement.

However, NMMM mayor Nqaba Banga, agrees that it is only when dams levels are at 10 percent and higher that water can be safely extracted for drinking purposes.

Currently, all the five supply dams levels are at four percent which can result in silt at the bottom of the dam being drenched up with lots of anaerobic bacteria, as stated by the controversial message.

Residents say water unsafe

Health-e News was unable to also verify the authenticity of the warning message. Still, three metro residents told Health-e News that they suffered stomach cramps after drinking the water.

Nkosana Jacobs, 56, from Kwanobuhle township in Kariega, formerly Uitenhage, said she experienced stomach cramps after drinking the water.

“I think there is a problem with the drinking water. It comes out [from the tap] murky and it tastes funny. After suffering from stomach cramps after drinking it, I now boil. I did not go to the doctor but used traditional medicine which treated me,” she said.

Mongezi Mhlanga, 40, of Missionvale township in Gqebhera, said he suffered from diarrhoea after drinking the water.

“It is dirty and has a dark colour. I think because of the low dam levels, this water we are made to drink is coming from the bottom of the dam and it comes with all sorts of impurities,” he said.

Martha Magentsi, 60, from New Brighton township also in Gqebhera, said: “I blame the drinking water for my stomach pains. The municipality must do something to treat this water. At times it smells and is murky. It must be treated first before drinking. I now boil it before drinking.”

Mayor Banga, however, maintains the water is safe for public consumption.—Health-e News

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Max Matavire