Residents of Zeerust in the North West did not smell a rat when their water was very odorless last week, but a baboon.
Municipal workers found the baboon’s carcass on Friday in one of the town’s reservoirs that provide residents with drinking water, Ditshaba Makhate, municipal manager of the Ramotshere Moiloa municipality serving the area, said Monday.
“We suspect the baboon wanted to drink water and then it fell into the reservoir. The workers took out the carcass and (near the reservoir) burned to get rid of the smell. “
Karlien Venter, FF Plus councilor in Zeerust, says complaints about the stench of water from residents’ taps started pouring in from last Thursday (June 18). They complained, among other things, that the water “smells like drainage water”, “stinks amazingly”, “it’s rotten” and that it “smells like something is dead in the water”.
Venter provided documentation showing that she had complained to the municipality in November 2018 that the two reservoirs in the town did not have lids and that it posed health risks to the community because the water could be contaminated if animals fell into it. She asked that it be urgently needed.
“Birds, baboons and humans have free access to the fenced-in reservoirs for drinking or swimming in the water,” Venter said at the time.
“There are several complaints about children swimming in the reservoir. If an animal or child drowns there, it poses serious health hazards. “
Her complaints fell on deaf ears. Venter says because the reservoirs are not fenced, residents dump all kinds of garbage there, including chicken manure.
“It’s very unhygienic and smells awful.”
She says when she visited the smaller reservoir early last Friday afternoon (June 19), workers were pouring chemicals into it. Upon returning there hours later, she found the smoldering baboon carcass meters from the reservoir.
Makhate said on Friday that the smaller reservoir containing the baboon was now closed and no water was flowing from there to residents. They now get water from the second, larger reservoir.
“We are now going to drain all the water (from the smaller reservoir) and get a company from outside to clean the reservoir,” says Makhate.
“When it is cleaned with new water, we will first have the water tested to make sure it is safe for human use before the reservoir will be put back into operation.”
Makhate says they also plan to fence the reservoirs so that people cannot enter and exit there. He promised the open spaces at the reservoirs would get lids – something Venter has been asking for almost two years.
“It is totally unacceptable for residents to be exposed to such a health risk due to the blatant negligence of the ANC-controlled municipality.”
Ilse Simpson, laboratory manager at Envirocare in Potchefstroom, says she considers any open reservoir to be “toxic” because anything, including rats and birds, can fall into it and infect the water. Envirocare specializes in water and food microbiology and chemistry.
“One will not necessarily smell if a small animal decomposes in a reservoir,” says Simpson.
“When an animal dies like a baboon, bacteria that can make people sick are released even before the carcass begins to emit an odor. Such a decomposing carcass releases an unfair amount of bacteria. Babies’ hair and fur are already very dirty and therefore contain many organisms that can also make people sick. “
Venter said she had not received a report by Monday afternoon that anyone had already become ill from Zeerust’s drinking water.
“The water is right now.”