By Willie Mponda
The City of Gweru stand accused of being responsible for the death of 8 residents and more than 2000 who were hospitalised during the typhoid outbreak after a special report revealed that human error by employees contributed to the epidemic.
It has been revealed that council workers allegedly failed to use chemicals to disinfect and properly clean up the decommissioned tanks before it supplied water to house-holds in the affected areas in Mkoba suburb.
According to the service delivery inquiry report released last week, sentiments of human error were contributed to the outbreak of typhoid in Gweru which resulted in death of 8 residents.
The water quality during the period was not safe for consumption as there were some reports from wards 7, 13,14, 15 17, 18 and 19 where yellowish and green water was coming out from the taps.
The department of engineering work-force confirmed that there was a last minute rush to flash out water in the affected areas when the outbreak was confirmed and the process used to fill up the reservoirs was not properly followed.
There are allegations that the water was pumped into the decommissioned tanks, which were idle for over two decades ago exposing the residents to poor water quality. Tanks 1, 2 and 3 in Mkoba 14 were not flashed, scoured nor backwashed as demanded by the procedure a violation of safety and health of the residents,” reads the report which was compiled by a committee led by Councillor Albert Chirau which included councilors, representatives of the residents association.
The committee also established during its investigations that chemicals were not applied by workers who were instructed to sweep the tanks as opposed to cleaning, had old protective wear such as used gumboots, overalls, gloves as well as hard brooms.
The expected standard and procedure which requires new materials and protective wear was violated thereby compromising safety of the residents. The tanks were supposed to be backwashed, scoured, and flashed four times before the water is released into the distribution system.
“It is the committee’s view that the process was negligent and raises misconduct on the part of the responsible department head and the Health department which is central to management of water quality; it was observed that there is no link, relationship or coordination between the two departments. The department of health is isolated in water sampling as the department of engineering services relies on their independent findings alone to declare the water as safe for human consumption despite the health department being pivotal and inevitably an anchor in the City’s water quality management process,” said the committee.
The committee further recommended that the Town Clerk, Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza must further interrogate why decommissioned water reservoirs were filled with water without following due process. The poor cleaning procedure contributed to the outbreak of typhoid.
The Committee received a concern from the Health Department that the department should not only stand to fight reduction of mortality when water related outbreaks occur but must inevitably be part and parcel of the routine water quality management process in coordination with the department of Engineering services through the water quality technician as the focal person.
In August last year, Gweru City Council has declared a typhoid outbreak in three Mkoba suburbs, advising residents to desist from drinking water from unprotected sources.
“Residents and clients are advised that the municipal water is safe for drinking. The city council is carrying out an investigation to establish the source of the salmonella bacteria, which causes typhoid in response to the outbreak,” reads a statement from council last year.