Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
GWERU City Council has blamed its department of engineering services for a typhoid outbreak which left eight residents dead and over 2 000 requiring medical assistance in August last year.
According to an internal report released on July 23, human error by council employees contributed to the outbreak of typhoid.
The service delivery inquiry report was compiled by a committee led by Councillor Albert Chirau and its members included councillors, members of the residents’ association and staff from the local authority.
It revealed that council workers failed to disinfect and properly clean up decommissioned tanks before filling them with water to supply residents.
The report indicates that the outbreak of typhoid which resulted in death of eight residents and hospitalisation of 2 191 residents was as a result of compromised water.
It said in Wards 7, 13, 14, 15 17, 18 and 19 yellowish and greenish water was coming out of taps.
“The department of engineering workforce 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 followed rigorously as well as religiously,” the report said.
“There are allegations that the water was pumped into the decommissioned tanks which were idle for over two decades ago exposing the residents to compromised water quality. Tanks 1, 2 and 3 in Mkoba 14 were not flashed, nor scoured and backwashed as demanded by the procedure, a violation of safety and health of the residents.”
The report noted that chemicals were not applied and those 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,” the report said.
“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.”
It said the department of health is isolated in water sampling as the department of engineering services relies on its independent findings alone to declare water safe for human consumption even though the former is pivotal in the city’s water quality management process.
The committee recommended that the Town Clerk, Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza must further interrogate why decommissioned water reservoirs were filled with water without following due process.