Diseases / environment / Health / sanitation / Water Quality

Side Bar: Minerals, Metals and Mass Outages: A Comprehensive Look at Grahamstown Water

In a rush? Tonic compiled it’s story on Grahamstown water into an easy-to-read list.

Find the full story at https://tonichealthblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/minerals-metals-and-mass-outages-a-comprehensive-look-at-grahamstown-water/

Grahamstown water

Where does it come from?

  • Grahamstown has two major water sources, the Waainek and the James Kleynhans water treatment works (WTW).

How is it treated?

  • The way Grahamstown water is treated at these plants has changed in response to quality tests conducted in recent years by private and co-regulatory bodies, both national and regional.
  • The aluminium sulphate which was previously used to treat the water, and which was responsible for aluminium deposits detected in tap water, was replaced with a polyelectrolyte blend and controlled using a jar test system to prevent over-dosing the water.
  • The water quality was also addressed by oxidation using chlorine, precipitating the manganese in the water and allowing it to settle out in the clarifier. Since the introduction of this process there has been little to no presence of manganese in the final water.

How good is maintenance?

  • In 2013 the Waainek Treatment Plant, one of the towns two major water sources, scored 54% compliance with the national standards. In a damning report by the Makana Engineering & Technical Services Committee, neither the Waainek nor the James Kleynhans water treatment works (WTW) complied with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  • Since the beginning of 2014, a R100-million emergency Water Intervention Project has been worked on to rehabilitate and overhaul our water systems. While Waainek treatment plant began correcting chemical imbalances in the water, replacing treatment chemicals with less harmful counterparts and drastically reducing the presence of manganese in the final water.
  • As a result, the plant rose to 99.4% compliance with the national standards in April 2014. The James Kleynhans has also improved drastically since 2013, but with the decades of neglect responsible for the outages in the first place, it will take years before the plants can be considered entirely reliable.

Water supply

Why do we get water cuts?

  • Water cuts are caused by poorly maintained pipes and water systems that can result in pipe breakages or unreliable water supplies to different areas of Grahamstown

Who is affected?

  • These pipes and water systems which are susceptible to problems run throughout Grahamstown. Rhodes university residences and campus were drastically affected in 2013, and all other parts of the town centre and suburbs have been subject to water outages in recent years.
  • The townships have felt the worst outages and unreliable supplies since 2006, a result of the poor infrastructure, service delivery and maintenance in these poorer regions of Grahamstown.

What has been done?

  • The R100-million emergency Water Intervention Project that has been worked on to rehabilitate and overhaul our water systems has produced some positive results, administered by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) rather than the Makana Municipality.
  • Central Grahamstown itself suffered much fewer water cuts last year than in 2013, and has this year had almost no water supply issues
  • Schools in the townships have reported much fewer water cuts and a reliable response by the munipality when cuts do occur.


Water quality

What is that earthy taste?

  • Geosmin is a compound produced by blooms of blue-green algae in reservoirs, the levels of which in Grahamstown water are perfectly safe despite the unappealing colour and taste they produce.

Why is it cloudy?

  • The turbidity of the water, referring to the clarity, is a reflection of the presence of foreign particles in the water. The turbidity of Grahamstown water did not meet quality standards in 2013, and although cloudy water still occurs, it has occurred much less frequently in recent years.

Are there heavy metals in the water?

  • Issues such as the presence of heavy metals such as Aluminium have been plagued Grahamstown since a number of trout from a local hatchery died to a high metal content in the water. Water tests conducted at the time showed that the concentration of chemicals such as chloride, fluoride, sodium and magnesium were within the acceptable bounds, and since the end of the use of aluminium sulphate in the chlorinating process, water quality checks have shown chemical imbalances in the tap water, including those of metals are within acceptable levels.

How good is the water quality?

  • Compared to metropolitan cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, not very good and not very reliable. At this stage however, it is within acceptable levels as defined by government and confirmed by the Blue Drop Certification Programme.

Can I drink it?

  • While a consensus among the many voices raised about this issue is yet to be reached, the evidence suggests that the water quality is, as of this year, within acceptable levels for consumption.

One thought on “Side Bar: Minerals, Metals and Mass Outages: A Comprehensive Look at Grahamstown Water

  1. Pingback: Minerals, Metals and Mass Outages: A Comprehensive Look at Grahamstown Water | Tonic

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