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Spatio-temporal variations of fluoride in surface and ground water : a case study of the Umgeni Water operational area, KwaZulu-Natal.

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In September 2000 water fluoridation became mandatory in South Africa. Since then water service providers like Umgeni Water (UW), a bulk water supply authority in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province of South Africa began the process of implementing the legislation. This study was undertaken to establish the spatio-temporal variations of fluoride concentrations in surface and ground waters within the Umgeni Operational Area, to establish whether these waters would require fluoridation or defluoridation to meet a fluoride concentration of 0.70 mglf, and to assess the potential impacts of water fluoridation. Baseline fluoride concentrations of surface and ground water: It was concluded that the fluoride concentration of all sample types (rivers, dams, water works raw and final waters, wastewater influent and effluents, and boreholes), except pollution point sources, is less than O.S; mglR, 50 percent of the time. Some rivers (Mshazi, KwaNyuswa, KwaNgcolosi,·Mshwati and the MgoShongweni) exhibited high fluoride concentrations, while someboreholes also exhibited high fluoride concentrations. Temporal Variations and Seasonality: There are seasonal variations in the fluoride concentrations for surface waters, with higher fluoride concentrations in winter than in summer (64 out of 125 occasions). This low fluoride concentration in summer can be attributed to the dilution effects caused by rainfall runoff. Identification of "Hot Spots": "Hot Spots", sites where the fluoride concentration exceeds 1 mglR are present within the study area, for surface and borehole water. For surface water, the MgoShongweni exhibited fluoride concentrations in excess of 1mglRat least 75% of the time. The KwaNgcolosi and Mshwati exhibited fluoride concentrations In excess of 1mglR at least 25% of the time, while the Mshazi and the KwaNyuswa exhibited fluoride concentrations in excess of 1mglR only 5% of the time. The storm water discharge below AECI had high fluoride concentrations in excess of 1mg/R at least 20% of the time and the concentrations exceeded the fluoride concentration for seawater (1.4 mglf) at least 5% of the time. Of the 286 boreholes sampled, 17 boreholes (6% of all boreholes sampled) had fluoride levels in excess oft mglf . The impacts of long term consumption of water from these boreholes could range from slight mottling of the dental enamel in sensitive individuals (boretioles JD26, C29, H19, CB7, 112/1, 69/5, Thembeni 108 and EC (Thembeni 105, Keats Drift boreholes 1 and 2). Spatial patterns and possible sources of high fluoride concentrations: With respect to spatial patterns, relatively high concentrations of fluoride (300 IJglR to 1000 IJglR) can be found in surface water in the Msunduzi river, the Mgeni river downstream of the Msunduzi confluence and along the coastal belt. No spatial patterns are evident with respect to borehole water. For surface water, high fluoride concentrations in the Mshazi, KwaNyuswa and the KwaNgcolosi streams (inflows to the Inanda dam) appear to be associated with the catchment geology. The ~igh fluoride concentrations in Mshwati and the MgoShongweni are most likely as a result of industrial activities in the respective catchments. For borehole water, high fluoride concentrations may be attributed to catchment geology. Additional fluoride dosaqe ' at water treatment works: Since the fluoride concentrations at the water works were low (mean ranging between 0.5 mglf to 0.38 mglf) , fluoride would need to be added to meet the fluoride standard of 0.7 mgl£ . For most of the water works, the additional fluoride (sodium fluoride) requirement to meet the fluoride standard of 0.7 mgl£, ranged from 1.201 kglMRto 1.555 kg/MR. For the water works, Imfume and Umzinto, the additional fluoride , requirement is 0.768 kg/MR and 0.109 kg/MR respectively. In final water, the fluctuations in fluoride concentrations observed would translate to continuous testing being required to maintain optimal dosing of fluoride. Comparison of influent and effluent fluoride concentrations at wastewater works: There was no evidence of fluoride removal at the Mpophomeni Wastewater Works . There was evidence of 22.4% fluoride removal at the DarvHI Wastewater Works possibly due to the activated sludge treatment process at the wastewater works. Future fluoride levels in surface water that will receive return flows: Once water fluoridation is implemented, the Darvill Wastewater Works would receive fluoridated return flows, and discharge its fluoride rich effluent into the Msunduzi river. The average monthly fluoride road discharged from Darvill Wastewater Works would increase from 0.23 tons to 1.46 tons, an additional 1.23 tons per month on the aquatic environment of the Msunduzi river. The sludge fluoride load, disposed to land, could increase from 4 056 tons/month to 27 863 tons/month, which implies an increase in the fluoride runoff potential from the sludge-lands to the Msunduzi river. Number of people in sensitive groups that could be affected by water fluoridation: A significant number of people in KZN could be sensitive to water fluoridation. This has been estimated to be at least one third of KZN's population that are HIV infected. Recommendations were made and the most important ones are as follows: In the light of the large number of people, one-third the population of KZN, that is HIV positive and therefore could be sensitive to fluoridated water, it is recommended that the South African legislation mandating water fluoridation be withdrawn. Examination of the most recent literature indicated a significant lack of confidence in the best available studies that researched the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation. In the light of this it is recommended that the South African Department of Health re-examine and withdraw its legislation that mandates water fluoridation.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2002.


Water--Fluoridation--South Africa., Drinking water--South Africa., Water--Law and legislation--South Africa., Fluorides., Umgeni Water., Theses--Environmental science.