Over half of wastewater treatment plants well below standard

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 01 July 2011

Less than half of South Africa’s 821 sewage works are treating the billions of litres of effluent they receive each day to safe and acceptable standards, according to the latest Green Drop Report.

56% of treatment plants are performing poorly or in a critical state

The report – a measure of the state of wastewater treatment plants in all nine provinces – was released by Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa on Thursday.

While it awards Green Drop status to 40 plants – up from 33 in 2009 – it warns that another 460 plants (56 percent) are either in a “critical state” or delivering a “very poor performance”.

The latest report examines wastewater treatment at 821 plants in 156 municipalities — the previous (2009) report examined 444 plants in 98 municipalities — and says this is “100 percent coverage of all systems”.

It is understood the report does not cover treatment works owned by public works, such as those at prisons, and other private operators.

Many of the poorly performing plants are located in the country’s poorer provinces, including the Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape and Limpopo.

“The Western Cape, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, are producing the high-performing waste water systems; Eastern Cape, followed by Free State, Northern Cape and Limpopo, are producing the bulk of the systems that are in critical and poor-performing positions.” Continue reading

Call for wastewater facilities to be prosecuted

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 28 March 2011

More than one third of 231 ­local municipalities do not have the capacity to perform their ­sanitation functions, a new study by the Council for ­Scientific and Industrial ­Research (CSIR) has found.

Overflows of raw sewage are severely detrimental to the environment.

The report, discussed at a United Nations water ­conference in Cape Town, includes a comprehensive survey of South Africa’s levels of water pollution.

It also tracks access to clean, safe water and sanitation. And it warns that South Africa is heading for ­disaster unless it tackles the problem of water pollution, ­including its failing sewage treatment ­systems.

It found that the situation was so bad, it called for waste-water facilities that did not comply with their licences to be prosecuted.

Water quality, the report ­stated, was excellent in metropolitan areas, but in many rural areas and towns, drinking water quality and waste-water effluent quality were frequently below the standards set. Continue reading

Deadly health risk to water supplies

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 12 November 2010

The breakdown of ageing sewage treatment works and the discharge of bacteria into rivers and streams pose a deadly health risk to water supplies, the African Christian Democratic Party warns.

Collecting water form a cholera infected river

“Questions have rightly been asked as to whether municipal water is still acceptable for human consumption, particularly in rural areas,” ACDP MP Steve Swart said in a statement.

Outdated infrastructure and problems in retaining skilled staff had contributed to unacceptably high levels of pollution in many rivers and dams around the country.

He noted that a breakdown in the state of water supplies in South Africa’s northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, had caused an outbreak of cholera.

“If we do not attend to this creeping water crisis, we will face very serious public health issues arising from water-borne diseases,” Swart said.

With about 100,000 reported cases and more than 4000 deaths, Zimbabwe’s recent cholera epidemic – which started in 2008 – proved one of Africa’s most deadly in almost two decades.

Swart called on government to embark on public water awareness campaigns, similar to those addressing power shortages.

“The maintenance and refurbishment of bulk water infrastructure and supplies, as well as the widespread pollution of our rivers and dams, must be attended to urgently,” he said.

The department of water affairs was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this week, it was reported that South Africa’s largest water utility, Rand Water, blamed overloaded sewage works, together with acid mine drainage and poor water catchment management, for the rapidly deteriorating quality of the country’s raw water supplies.

According to the department of water affairs’ so-called Green Drop report, issued earlier this year, only seven percent of the country’s sewage treatment plants operate at an acceptable standard.

Source: Times Live

Information on dysfunctional sewage plants will not be made public

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 15 September 2010

In a written reply to parliamentary questions, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said revealing such information could lead to “serious misinterpretation” of the data.

Not all waste-water treatment works meet the licencing standard

“What is available and was published… in the 2009 Green Drop Report, is the summary of the performance of each of the 449 WWTWs [waste water treatment works] that were assessed,” she said.

The Green Drop Report—an audit of 449 of South Africa’s 852 municipal WWTWs, conducted between August 2008 and July 2009 — was released, after long delays, in April this year.

According to the document, a total of 403 facilities were not assessed due to, among others, “municipal officials not sufficiently confident in their levels of competence” and “municipalities not managing waste water services according to expected requirements”.

It also found that of the 449 works that were assessed, skills shortages had resulted in many not being operated correctly and “the effluent water quality is no longer compliant”.

Among the parliamentary questions posed to Sonjica – by Democratic Alliance MP Annette Lovemore – was whether information for all WWTWs would be made available to the public, and if not, why not.

The minister replied: “No, such detail information is not available to the public. Revealing details of such a high technical nature will lead to unnecessary additional administrative challenges and serious misinterpretation.”

Speaking to Sapa, Lovemore said not making public information on potential threats to people’s health was unacceptable.

“It’s not acceptable. Each municipality is required to report on results each month. If there is a health risk, people should be told.”

She said that over and above the risks to human health of sewage water finding its way into rivers and streams, the contaminated water also affected crop irrigation, drinking water for livestock and the health of the environment.

In her reply, Sonjica further said that not all WWTWs had been issued licenses or permits to operate. She did not say how many.

Reasons for municipal sewage works not having operating licenses included that some had not applied for one, some did not meet the standard required for a license, and others had “insufficient capacity” to submit the application.

Her department had launched a special project “to address the current backlog in licences”, she said.

– Sapa

SA’s water: A looming apocalypse?

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 07 May 2010

South Africa faces a far more disruptive threat than Eskom power failures, one that is potentially calamitous and may even be seen by religiously-minded citizens as the coming of the biblically predicted apocalypse.

It will be characterised by the failure of wastewater purification systems, the pollution of rivers and dams and even the poisoning of waters in reservoirs or dams serving as reservoirs if the purification process is inadequate at that level.

The first signs of the disaster are already visible in remote rural areas where the municipalities – which are responsible for wastewater purification – are too poor to attract appropriately qualified personnel to operate purification systems and ensure that they are properly maintained.

Though water and environment affairs minister Buyelwa Sonjica denies that there is a water crisis at present, she implicitly admits that one is inevitable unless strenuous action is taken to prevent it when she warns that South Africa will have to spend R23-billion to prevent the collapse of the wastewater treatment system.

An excellent synopsis of the main dimensions of the impending crisis if appropriate and urgent measures are not taken is contained in a publication by the Centre for Development and Enterprise and Business Leadership SA.

The publication summarised the contents of a round table discussion by representatives of government, business and academia on the genesis of the problem and the threatened crisis.

The scene-setting introduction makes two broad points: Continue reading