Umgeni Water declared on Wednesday that the water supply to protest-torn Ladysmith is safe to consume after social media claims that it had been “poisoned”.
A WhatsApp message, widely circulated since Monday, urged residents in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town not to drink “water that comes out of your taps this morning because it has been poisoned”.
The message comes in the wake of violent protests, including the torching of trucks outside the town and the burning of tyres, which has brought day-to-day activities to a standstill.
On Tuesday, KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala and a high-level provincial government delegation met business leaders, mayors and aggrieved residents in a bid to restore calm to Ladysmith.
Residents have taken to the streets in recent weeks to demand that Alfred Duma local municipality mayor Vincent Madlala steps down.
They accused him of looting municipal coffers for his personal use, which he has denied.
Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder said that while the WhatsApp message did not identify the nature of the “purported poison, where or how it had been placed in the water supply system”, the entity acted swiftly to conduct tests.
“Umgeni Water management sent a member of staff on the same day to Ladysmith to take samples of potable water that is produced in Ezakheni Water Treatment Works (WTW).
“Potable water samples were taken from three areas that are representative of the final treated water leaving the WTW and of reticulation points. Samples were taken from Ezakheni WTW and two reticulation points, namely Ezakheni Police Station and Ezakheni ML Sultan School. These reticulation points are fed by Assvoelkop Reservoir and Abattoir Reservoir respectively.
“Comprehensive testing to assess water quality and suitability for domestic use began on the evening of March 9, 2020, and a report was released on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
“These tests were done in Umgeni Water’s ISO 17025 accredited laboratory in Pietermaritzburg, and were in conformance with South African National Standards (SANS) 241: 2015 for drinking water quality,” said Harichunder.
He said the results showed that all water samples tested were suitable for domestic use.
However, Harichunder said the WTW remained closed.
“Staff were forced to stop production of potable water and leave the premises when a group of people arrived there on Monday night and said protests would take place there.
“Access to the plant has become extremely difficult as a result of the road that leads to it being blocked.
“Umgeni Water is hoping that there is a speedy solution to the situation in order to resume production and supply of potable water.”
Harichunder said the entity was concerned about the safety of its staff and would not expose them to danger.