Vyeboom residents in front of one of the borehole stations. From left are Aron Tshivhinda, Nndanduleni Tshidumo and Rudzani Phungo. Photo supplied.
The recent damning findings of a research project on water safety that was done in the water-starved Vyeboom community has sparked fear and uncertainty among the residents.
The research, done by a group of Univen students and academics, focussed on borehole water in the village. Of the 17 boreholes, three were drilled by the Vhembe District, which is the water authority in the area. The rest are privately owned.
The study found that high nitrate levels were present in all 17 tested boreholes. High levels of nitrate in water can be a result of runoff or leakage from fertilised soil, wastewater, landfills, animal feedlots, septic systems, or urban drainage. On top of that, all the boreholes where contaminated with E. coli bacteria (Escherichia coli), which is a type of bacterium that normally lives in the guts of some animals.
A few weeks ago, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Limpopo released its report regarding research on access to water in Limpopo. The report looked at the efficacy of water-services authorities in the province. It painted a dark picture, where 10 water-service authorities in the province, Vhembe included, were found to be in violation of the Water Service Act and did not adhere to compulsory standards.
The recent research findings at Vyeboom, where the community relies on borehole water, has further worsened the situation. Many residents are now too afraid to use this water from the ground and have resorted to buying water, while those who cannot afford to pay for water have no other option but to use this unsafe water.
Community leader Mr Makondelela Murovhi, who also has a borehole, expressed his shock over the findings, saying that the community now found themselves in a dilemma. “The community is in fear. We do not know what to do. We do not have any other source of water, and we are told the water we are using is not fit for consumption. We invited the Vhembe Municipality to come and address this issue as it is very urgent, but they never pitched. We are in a crisis. Our people must now buy water from shops, and bear in mind that we are a very poor community, where money is a problem. We now have serious doubts about whether the three boreholes they drilled for the community ever had quality certificates. These are the documents we will demand when we meet them,” he said.
Vhembe District Municipality’s spokesperson, Mr Matodzi Ralushai, confirmed that they had received the findings. “We are alarmed on learning of the findings. We ordered our water-quality officials to investigate the matter. We supply quality water to our communities, but we have no control over privately drilled boreholes. We are encouraging those with boreholes to visit our water-quality offices and follow protocols to have their water tested,” he said.
Date:17 November 2023
Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and was a permanent part of the news team until 2019.