Home » Governance » Funeral Parlours Contaminate Drinking Water

Funeral parlours, service stations, fuel holding depots and food processing plants have been dumping waste in the drinking water system countrywide.

This has incensed a Cabinet Committee, which has ordered thousands of such businesses to immediately install waste interceptors and pre-treatment plants to curb pollution or face closure.

The committee was established to probe causes of water pollution and raw sewage disposal and make recommendations in line with provisions of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).

The Zim-Asset cluster on infrastructure and utilities stipulates that for the economy to register growth in a competitive and effective manner, there is need to develop robust, elaborate and resilient infrastructure in water and sanitation.

Tanneries, food outlets, breweries and beverage producers, abattoirs and chemical processing plants also face the Government ultimatum.

Installation of waste interceptors and pre-treatment plants will prevent discharge of raw effluent into water bodies.

According to sources who attended a Cabinet committee meeting on water pollution in Harare yesterday, the businesses have up to June 30, 2014 to have functioning plants.

The committee wants a Statutory Instrument to immediately enforce the requirement.

However, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo, who chairs the committee, could not divulge what the Statutory Instrument would say.

Waste from the concerned businesses blocks sewer reticulation systems, while chemicals kill aquatic life and bacteria critical in sewage treatment, as well as posing a threat to human life and the environment.

Dr Chombo told the media in Harare yesterday that companies which defaulted on set conditions would have their licences revoked.

“They will be closed and the timelines will be announced on Tuesday (next week),” he said.

“We have recommended that the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate immediately gazette a Statutory Instrument enforcing the ‘Polluter Pays Principle’.

“Integrity checks will be done for all fuel tanks. The companies which contribute to environmental pollution should take immediate remedial action to redress the unpalatable situation.”

The Cabinet Committee includes the ministries of Finance and Economic Development Energy and Power Development Industry and Commerce Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Mines and Mining Development and Health and Child Care.

Local authorities are also notorious for discharging waste into water bodies and the Cabinet Committee recommended that sewage pump stations be rehabilitated.

“The further destruction of wetlands through construction and development should immediately cease,” said Dr Chombo. “All housing and development projects approvals should include adequate provision of water and raw sewage disposal.”

Provincial co-ordinating committees on water pollution will be set up and expected to submit weekly reports to Government.

Service delivery, Dr Chombo said, was critical to implementation of Zim-Asset.

According to a report by permanent secretaries submitted to the Cabinet Committee, service stations, chemical processing plants and transport operators’ garages released oil, grease and silt which polluted underground water and corroded sewer systems.

Tanneries have organic solids, dyes and paints which are poisonous and dangerous to humans and aquatic life, while food outlets and food processing plants produce oils and fats that block sewer reticulation systems.

Funeral parlours are releasing the embalming fluid formaldehyde, which kills bacteria that is important in sewage purification.

Breweries and beverage producers produce alkaline that also kills bacteria for sewer purification and abattoirs have fats and organic solids that reduce biological oxygen demand, thus destroying aquatic life.

A recent probe into the affairs of Umguza Catchment revealed that Bulawayo Municipality and industries were discharging 35 million litres of raw sewage and hazardous effluent directly into the catchment per year.

The report said the industrial discharge fell in the “Red Class” under the Environmental Management Authority’s disposal limits, with the municipality and companies dumping phosphates, ammonia and nitrates in drinking water.

Companies fingered included Delta Beverages, Schweppes, Ingwebu Breweries, Colcom, CSC, Treger Kango and United Refineries.

All the companies either operate with bad pre-treatment plants or without any.

Source : The Herald