Research finds Giyani’s water poisonous

Contaminated borehole water in Limpopo's Mopani district raises health concerns, prompting calls for action.

The Mopani district municipality in Limpopo has more than 1 500 boreholes but scientific and pollution research reveals the water coming from some these boreholes is contaminated with low levels of arsenic and dangerous for human consumption.

The municipality yesterday confirmed knowledge of the high arsenic concentration in some of the water samples.

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“We have noted the report and our view is that it should help us to elevate the issue of testing and take a step further from what we have been doing already,” municipal spokesperson Odas Ngobeni told The Citizen.

The district drilled boreholes as a short-term intervention, especially in areas where it did not have bulk water supply.

“The council has noticed that individual households also drill boreholes in their yards,” he said.

“Our work will be around encouraging testing… “We have not received any reports of health complications arising from borehole water so far.”

Last year, the Mopani district municipality, which is a water authority in Giyani, as well as villages and farming settlements said it had drilled 1 715 boreholes, 306 of which still needed be connected to power by Eskom.

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Research published on 20 April last year in Giyani villages such as Maswanganyi, Tomo and Muyexe revealed borehole water in the area was contaminated.

Samples were taken from the soil, farm produce and blood samples from the selected people.

“We assessed arsenic concentrations in study participants’ main water source, soil from their garden and participants’ blood samples,” said the report.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to analyse arsenic in blood at the individual level in Limpopo.

“During the study, we found significant associations between arsenic concentrations in borehole water and blood arsenic concentrations.”

This, it said, was concerning because most of the participants in Giyani relied on boreholes as their main source of water.

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“Our study provided evidence of elevated arsenic levels in drinking water in a highly exposed village, with 39% of water samples exceeding the World Health Organisation recommendation and placing residents at risk of adverse health outcomes.

“Almost 90% of study participants in Giyani reported they consumed vegetables grown in the gardens from which soil samples were collected.

“In addition to drinking water, the transfer of arsenic from soils to the edible parts of plants is another possible route of arsenic entry into the human body,” revealed the study.

Bigman Mkhabela of Dzumeri outside Giyani appealed to Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu to fast-track the completion of the R4.5-billion Presidential Giyani bulk water project.

Some good news for residents is that a pipeline transporting water from the full-to-capacity Nandoni Dam in Venda to Nsami Dam in Giyani is allegedly complete.

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