In a new twist to the water contamination saga in Gwanda, the district Civil Protection Unit (CPU) has indicated that water for the town is now “clean” and suitable for domestic use.
However, it is understood that authorities have not yet traced the source of the cyanide and magnesium chemicals which were found in the water meant for residents in the town, which is the Matabeleland South provincial capital.
Reports of the contamination of the water sparked fears of a health disaster in Gwanda, which is home to an estimated 60 000 people.
In an interview on Wednesday, Gwanda CPU Committee chairperson Gladys Zizhou did not reveal what was done to make the water clean but insisted it was now safe for domestic and other uses.
“Gwanda water is now clean, but investigations are still on going,” she said. Zizhou could not be drawn into revealing more information on how far the investigations had gone.
“As I have told you we are still continuing with investigations, that is that,” she said before hanging up.
The probe team formed in December last year and tasked to investigate the origins of the contamination comprises the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.
Matabeleland South EMA provincial manager Sithembisiwe Ndlovu recently told NewsDay that investigations to establish the source of the contamination of the Gwanda town water source, Mtshabezi River, had begun.
Residents resorted to buying bottled mineral water and “importing” the precious commodity from neighbouring areas.
Gwanda municipality also distributed some purified water to residents in a bid to prevent residents from consuming contaminated water and risking their health. Water from the taps was reportedly smelly and dirty.
According to EMA, test samples showed that parts of the river were highly concentrated with the chemicals while some parts had low chemical concentration.
The test samples were done at EMA laboratories and Standards Association of Zimbabwe.
Gwanda mayor Lionel DeNecker recently said the local authority would take steps to make those found responsible answer for their actions.
“Some residents who consumed the contaminated water are likely to have after-effects in future and it is necessary that those who are found responsible must be made to compensate the affected residents” said DeNecker.