Brown, gritty municipal water coming out of King William’s Town taps for a week was caused by a new chemical being introduced in the treatment plant, according to a Buffalo City Metro helpline.
Daily Dispatch tried hard to get an official explanation from BCM after residents went on the alert for potential health hazards.
Guest house owners said they were giving guests bottled water.
West Bank, King William’s Town resident Vuyo Mbetsha said he had called the BCM helpline in King William’s Town and was told a new chemical was causing problems with the water quality.
Daily Dispatch called the line and the woman who answered at the number, advertised by BCM for residents to report leaks, said: “Yes, the water is not clear.
“They have started using new cleaning stuff, but it is not working the same as the one before.
“You can drink it [water].”
Late on Monday, BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya responded to e-mails and WhatsApp messages saying there was nothing wrong with the chemical treatment of the water and that they had enough chemicals in stock. Allegations about insufficient chemicals were untrue, Ngwenya said.
“As for the brown-coloured water, this appears after a burst and consumers are requested to contact the depot and inform the call centre as to which areas are affected so as to address this issue whenever they notice changes in the water.
“Furthermore, municipal employees are prohibited from posting any municipal related information on social networks.
“White-coloured water is an indication of air in pipes and this also will appear after a burst and is the result of residual air not purged from a pipe.”
Resident Dorcas Pillay did not believe the water was drinkable.
She said it had been discoloured for weeks, but on Monday February 10, it went brown and stayed that way.
She said her domestic helper, who lives in Ginsberg, said the water was also brown there.
Pillay said: “I thought it would rectify in a few days, but it’s getting worse.”
She was finding sandy grit at the bottom of her drinking glasses.
“My child would not eat my potato salad; he said it had a metallic taste.”
Tia der Ridder, owner of the four-star 16-room Lavender Guest House, said her percale sheets came out “a brownish, yellowish, orangey colour, like sand and mud” after being washed.
Expensive detergents and additional water had to be used to restore the sheets, “and we are on water restrictions”.
Giselle Verwaaij, owner of the four-star Glencoe Guest House, said: “It has been very brown since Wednesday.
“I tell guests, please don’t drink the water. We supply bottled water.
“I don’t understand why it has gone on for so long. We have had no feedback from BCM.”
Amatola Mountain View Guest House co-owner Pat Speirs said: “My bath is brown; we are not happy with this.
“I am not keen to drink the water.”
Many of her guests, most of them government officials, were bringing their own bottled water.
Connie Mazinyo posted on Facebook that in the area near the golf course, the water had been brown since February 7.
Linda Logan, owner of an aftercare centre in Alamein Crescent, said: “We have 30 kids. For the past two weeks I have told them they cannot drink the water.
“I don’t want them getting sick.
“We don’t know what to do. We approached the municipality over two weeks ago but we are getting no help.”
Daleview resident Johan Howes said the water had had a brown tinge for some time.
“We use filtered water to drink and brush our teeth. We only shower in municipal water.”
His WhatsApp neighbourhood watch group had sent out warning messages.
A reliable source at the King William’s Town Pick n Pay said the store had a large tank and a backup (tank) which were being drained by a sudden increase in demand.
He said customers had been queuing up “big time” to have their bottles refilled.
“We have to keep a close watch on the tanks to keep them filled,” he said.