|2012 07 24 Press Release: Judgment reserved and independent review of water quality results in Carolina|
LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, LEGAL RESOURCES CENTRE AND THE FEDERATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT
MEDIA STATEMENT - 23th July 2012
JUDGEMENT RESERVED AND INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF WATER QUALITY RESULTS IN CAROLINA
Yesterday (23 July) the North Gauteng High Court heard the application for leave to appeal against the judgment and order handed down on 10 July 2012 in the Carolina matter. The application for leave to appeal was brought by the Gert Sibande District Municipality and the Chief Albert Luthuli Local Municipality and was opposed by the Federation for a Sustainable Development and the Silobela Concerned Community, represented by the Legal Resources Centre and Lawyers for Human Rights respectively.
In conjunction with their opposition, LRC and LHR jointly brought an application in terms of Rule 49(11) for leave to execute the judgment in the main application immediately. If granted, it would compel the Municipality to provide temporary potable water to the residents of Silobela, Caropark and Carolina pending the outcome of the appeal. The central basis of the Rule 49 application to execute judgment is that the matter concerns the urgent need of the residents to receive a basic water supply. Judgment will be handed down on Thursday the 26th of July at 9h30.
In response to Minister Edna Molewa and the Chief Albert Luthuli Local Government declaring the potable water in Carolina safe to drink, the Federation for a Sustainable Development and the Silobela Concerned Community have obtained samples from Carolina, Silobela and Caropark tap water, which have been analysed by an independent water laboratory. The results obtained from these samples were handed over to an independent environmental management and governance specialist. The results of the analysis conducted on these samples show that:
1. The water in Carolina has a pH level of between 10.7 and 11, which exceeds the upper limit of the SANS 241-1:2011 drinking water standard. The pH should be between ? 5 to ? 9.7. At a pH above 8 there is a progressive decrease in the efficiency of the Chlorine disinfection process. High pH values will also have an aesthetic effect causing the water to have a characteristic soapy taste. Common substances with a pH in this range include ammonia and floor cleaning solutions.
Exposure to high pH values can result in irritation to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. In sensitive individuals, gastrointestinal irritation may also occur. In addition, because pH can affect the degree of corrosion of metals as well as disinfection efficiency, it may have an indirect effect on health.
2. The Sulphate levels are within the SANS 241-1:2011 health risk limits of 500 mg/l but exceed the SANS 241-1:2011 aesthetic effect limit of 250 mg/l. With a Sulphate concentration of around 350mg/l, as was found in Carolina tap water, the water will often have an unpleasant smell that can be compared to rotten eggs. The WHO does not specify the level of Sulphate in drinking water that is likely to cause human health effects, but the WHO recognises that children, transient and elderly people are more sensitive to the effects of exposure of higher concentrations of Sulphate. Diarrhoea and dehydration are often observed when individuals accustomed to drinking water with low concentrations of sulphate start to consume water with high amounts of sulphate. It is also not advisable to use water that contains high concentrations of Sulphate for infant feeding.
3. The Langerine Saturation Index is +2.99. This is above the recommended level of +1.5, which means that water is strongly scale forming and can have a negative effect on piping and plumbing systems.
4. The Free Residual Chlorine level is 3mg/l, which is less than the maximum allowed level of 5mg/l. This value however will make the water taste very strongly of Chlorine, which can lead to consumer resistance. The recommended level is between 0.3 and 0.5 mg/l, which is adequate to ensure complete disinfection of potable water.
Tests conducted by the Chief Albert Luthuli Municipality on the 9th, 12th and 15thf of July confirm these findings and also show an increase in pH levels up to 11.4 as well as an indication of elevated heavy metals above SANS levels, including high levels of Aluminium, Manganese and Iron.
Referring to these results we argued in court today that the potable water in Carolina cannot be considered suitable for human consumption. We further pointed out that that the maximum capacity of the water treatment plant, if it is operating at an optimum, can only provide an amount of 2.2 ML per day while the assessed needs for the town is 4.5 ML as described in their own court documents. Accordingly the tap water, even once deemed safe to drink, is wholly insufficient for the area and has resulted in "water-shedding" with certain areas having no access to any water at all on any given day.
We therefore maintained that the immediate relief of clean drinking water is necessary and that such relief should be in provided in line with the minimum standards of regulation 3b.
At the same time however, we appreciate the progress that the municipality is doing in cleaning the potable water in Carolina and welcome the publication of any new tests results and information on which the decision to declare the water 'safe to drink' is based and which would assist the residents of Carolina to make informed decision about the quality of their tap water.