BY MOSES MATENGA
HARARE City Council workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals at the local authority’s waterworks where they are forced to perform their duties without protective clothing.
The grave situation was revealed during last week’s tour of the Morton Jaffray water treatment plant by senators, who were told that council was failing to buy protective clothing because of budgetary constraints.
Senators observed the workers offloading chemicals from a truck without any protective clothing.
Edias Nyanguwo, the Morton Jaffray superintendent, said they had not received any funding to buy protective clothing for staff despite making requests as far back as last year.
“We ordered safety equipment and clothing last year,” he said. “We need respirator cartridges for the workers, but we have a challenge due to budgetary issues.”
A respirator cartridge or canister is a container that clears air pollution and it is recommended that employees working in a polluted area use respirators.
Council officials said the situation at the 66-year-old Morton Jaffray waterworks had become dire.
“There are chemicals we store here like activated carbon, that black one, it removes the smell from the water,” Nyanguwo said.
According to research, the side effects of taking activated charcoal include constipation and black faeces.
More serious, but rare, side effects are a slowing or blockage of the intestinal tract, regurgitation into the lungs, and dehydration and without face masks the workers are left exposed.
Another potentially harmful chemical that the workers handle is aluminium sulphate.
Although aluminium sulphate does not cause cancer, according to research, it is a skin and eye irritant and all who work with it should wear gloves and eye protection.
If ingested in some way, the chemical is “mildly hazardous”.
The workers at the plant said morale was low because of lack of protective clothing and poor salaries.
Council officials said the local authority was struggling because the government was yet to approve its budget for this year.
The local authority said it was still charging rates that were pegged in 2018 where ratepayers are paying an equivalent of US$1 a month in high-density areas for water and about US$3 a in low-density suburbs.
Council collects $12 million to 15 million a month in revenue, but needs $14 million to pay for water treatment chemicals alone.
The local authority owes its sole water treatment chemicals supplier, Chemplex, more than $78 million.