Dysfunctional Madibeng Sewage works polluting Crocodile River

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 30 July 2010

Statement issued by Annette Lovemore, MP, Democratic Alliance Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be writing to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs asking for a precise timetable on the establishment of special environmental courts to enable our legal system to deal with cases warranting special attention.

Polluted water from the Crocodile River flows into Hartebeespoort Dam

While the DA has been lobbying for these courts for some time, a definitive roll-out plan from the minister has become all the more urgent in light of the state of the Madibeng Sewage works which is releasing polluted water into the Crocodile River which flows into Hartebeespoort Dam, one of the principal water sources for many South Africans in the interior of the country.

Our water system is reliant on a complicated system of interconnected networks, the integrity of which need to all be maintained to the highest standards. Any weak component within that system needs to be addressed and those responsible need to answer for failing in their mandate as custodians of our natural resources.

The DA was part of a parliamentary water and environmental affairs portfolio committee visit to Madibeng that took place on 28th and 29th of July. A visit to the Madibeng sewage treatment works  revealed a deeply concerning lack of action, with officials admitting that the plant is so dysfunctional they might just as well switch off the pumps in the plant and allow raw sewage to flow into the already heavily polluted Crocodile River.

The committee was also told that the plant should be receiving approximately 18Ml of sewage per day, and is, in fact, receiving only 4 Ml/day. This means that approximately 14 Ml/day of raw sewage flows through the streets and into the river from the sorely neglected and failing pump stations throughout the area. Alarmingly, three of the pump stations that have failed are now discharging raw sewage into the river at the point where the drinking water supply is abstracted.

Five of the six senior positions in the directorate dealing with water and wastewater are vacant. There is not a single qualified person employed at the activated sludge plant in question.

The Crocodile River flows into the Hartebeespoort Dam – one of the most heavily eutrophied dams in the country, with an abundant growth of highly toxic algae. Continue reading

Water crisis could cripple economic growth

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 May 2010

South Africa faces a water crisis that could cripple economic growth and cause a plague of health problems – but critics say the government has yet to act with urgency.

Toxic algae bloom

The most immediate concern is the acid mine drainage (AMD) polluting a vast swathe from the Witwaters-rand to Mpumalanga. Other threats include pesticide run-off, broken infrastructure and failed sewage plants.

As the population grows and economic recovery puts more pressure on limited inland water resources, experts predict a shift of industrial activity to coastal areas where desalination plants will have to meet a growing share of demand.

Environmentalists warn that if the government and industry fail to act, within two years mine water as corrosive as battery acid will gush from Johannesburg’s Wemmer Pan and seep into the city’s streets and gardens.

“It is acutely toxic,” said Mariette Liefferink, who leads a group of non-governmental organisations lobbying for action. “It affects the soil and neural development of the foetus, which leads to mental retardation; it will cause cancer, cognitive problems, skin lesions,” she said. “These are all the foreseeable risks if we do not manage our AMD.”

Acid mine drainage, which occurs when mines close and stop pumping water out of shafts, has contaminated streams and dams on the West and East Rand that feed into the Limpopo and Vaal rivers. Treatment by utilities such as Rand Water renders the water safe, but those who drink straight from rivers are at risk. Continue reading