1. DWS Eutrophication SA & GA PSC 1 BID
2. PSC 1 Meeting Agenda - Eutrophication Strategy
3. Issues and Response Register - Inception Report Comments
The concerted efforts and submissions to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), the Applicant and its appointed Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) by the Protect Vaal Eden Committee, Vaal Eden community, and the Federation for a Sustainable Environment have resulted in the withdrawal of the application of an amendment of the environmental authorisation and environmental management programme for the Sweet Sensation Sand Mining operation adjacent to the Vaal River. The EAP was notified by the DMRE that further specialist studies would be required to determine the impact the application for a screening plant and process would have on the environment and that a Regulation 31 amendment process, which involves a public participation process, must be undertaken. The FSE welcomes the DMRE’s notification.
Notification letter attached for download
The Pelicam Film Festival in Rumania has awarded Jozi Gold a Special Mention.
Find our report attached for download.
Mind the Gap consortium launched the new website www.mindthegap.ngo featuring five strategies corporations use to avoid responsibility for human rights abuses: 1.Constructing deniability; 2. Avoiding liability through judicial strategies; 3. Distracting and obfuscating stakeholders; 4.Undermining defenders and communities; 5. Utilising state power. These harmful strategies manifest themselves in a wide array of actions by corporations that obstruct justice, distort the facts and frustrate remedy for affected communities.
The Mintails case will be part of the evidence base for this website and Lonmin’s involvement in the Marikana massacre is also included. The case studies featured on the new website highlight the wide prevalence of harmful corporate strategies in practice and amplifies the urgent need to close the governance gaps that are sustaining a global system of corporate impunity.
Subjoined hereunder is the report on Mintails.
in South Africa
CASE STUDY: MINTAILS’ STRATEGIES OF DISENGAGEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA
Last updated: 10th July 2020
The bankruptcy case of the South African mining company Mintails provides an example of irresponsible disengagement by investors, leaving the state of South Africa and the local communities around the mines with the burden of uncovered post-mining environmental rehabilitation costs.
Mintails S.A. (Mintails), a fully-owned subsidiary of Mintails Limited (MLI), held three mining rights in South Africa – West Wits Mining, Minerals and Mining Reclamation, and Mogale Gold. In the 2010s, Mintails was granted these mining rights by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), subject to adequate provision for environmental rehabilitation liability. However, the mining rights were never fully issued, as Mintails failed to provide multiple financial and social provisions.
Despite the lack of a valid mining licence, Mintails was allowed to continue mining operations, amid numerous documented complaints of environmental contraventions. After several statutory notices from DMR, in which the department asked Mintails to comply with environmental regulations and to provide adequate remedy for the damages it had caused, the Director General of DMR directed Mintails to provide a quarter of all the due costs in October 2014. The company was required to submit a six-month payment plan to provide the remaining sum. Unable to raise this money, Mintails filed for business rescue a year later.
Several actions by MLI and Mintails resulted in diminished environmental liability. First, Mintails hired two consultants who provided substantially downgraded estimates of the company’s liability for the environmental harms originating from its mining activities. Second, in the midst of a business rescue, MLI divested itself from Mintails by proceeding to spin-off its South African subsidiary. MLI was then renamed Orminex Limited, completing what looks like a manoeuvre to avoid liability for the environmental reparations owed by Mintails. Eventually, Mintails filed for liquidation during the summer of 2018, leaving the state of South Africa and the local communities around the mines with the financial burden to cover post-mining environmental rehabilitation costs, estimated at over R460 million (approx. 35 million US$).
As multiple sources argue, this turn of events could have been foreseen as Mintails had recognised that its activities could lead to bankruptcy. The company nonetheless decided not to secure the funds it owed for environmental repairs. MLI’s separation from its South African subsidiary Mintails can be interpreted as a sign that the company aimed to avoid liability for the environmental damages created by its subsidiary.
Despite the South African Parliament recommending prosecution and civil suits on company directors and shareholders in their personal capacities so that some of the liability owed could be recovered, the National Prosecuting Authority has been silent on the matter to date. Observers have pointed out that this is unlikely to change in South Africa’s mining-dependant environment.
In an attempt to achieve environmental restoration, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) filed a lawsuit to compel relevant government departments to hold companies and directors in the Mintails group to account for the environmental restoration costs. The first hearing is expected to take place on 12 August 2020.
 South African National Assembly, “Report of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources on its oversight visit North West and Gauteng on the 13-14 September 2018, dated 07 November 2018”, Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (Cape Town: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, 2018), 22-52, https://dc.sourceafrica.net/documents/118553-Portfolio-Committee-on-Mineral-Resources-Final.html (accessed November 4, 2019).
 Gauteng Regional Head Office of the Department of Water and Sanitation of the Republic of South Africa, “Compliance Inspection for Mintails Mining SA Ltd: Mogale Gold,” December 18, 2014, https://dc.sourceafrica.net/documents/118409-DWS-Inspection-Report.html(accessed November 4, 2019); Mariette Lifferink and Lucien Limacher, “Presentation to the Government Task Team on Mintails’ Alleged Environmental Contraventions,” April 19, 2018, https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/s3.sourceafrica.net/documents/118408/LRC-FSE-GTT-PRESENTATION-MINTAILS.pdf (accessed November 4, 2019).
 South African National Assembly.
 Lake, David, “Business Rescue Plan: Mintails Mining SA Proprietary Limited”, Mintails Gold SA Proprietary Limited and Mintails SA Randfontein Cluster Proprietary Limited (Johannesburg: Lake Strategic Solutions, 2016), 88., https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/s3.sourceafrica.net/documents/118411/BUSINESS-RESCUE-PLAN-161213-MSARC-Amended.pdf (accessed November 4, 2019).
 South African National Assembly.
 It is not completely clear which party purchased Mintails S.A and how the spin-off was eventually realised. The report by the Business Rescue Person David Lake mentions a shift of interests from Paige Limited to Mvest Capital, while the news website Businesslive mentions Paige as the sole creditor after liquidation. See point 5 and 6 in: David Lake, “Notice in terms of sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the companies act, 2008″, Lake Strategic Solutions, Johannesburg, August 1, 2018, p. 2, https://dc.sourceafrica.net/documents/118415-180801-Notice-to-Affected-Parties-Mintails.html (accessed November 4, 2019) and Mark Olalde, “Mintails directors may face criminal charges”, December 11, 2018, Businesslive, https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2018-12-11-mintails-directors-may-face-criminal-charges/ (accessed November 4, 2019).
 James Thackray, “Mintails Limited: Effectuation of Deed of Company Arrangement,” HQ Advisory, June 6, 2017. (accessed November 4, 2019); Orminex Limited. “Orminex: 31 March 2018 Quarterly Report,” March 31, 2018. https://orminex.com.au/re-listing-update-and-change-of-asx-code/. (accessed June 21, 2020).
 In its email reply responding to a request to review this case study, Orminex writes: “we purchased the listed entity [MLI] as a shell company and have never had any association with the South African subsidiary [Mintails South Africa] referred to in your recent email correspondence” (email dated 5 February 2020). The research team has not been able to verify this information, although Mintails’ 2017 annual report, p.4, makes clear that MLI was recapitalised, possibly by new shareholders: https://orminex.com.au/category/annual-reports/
 Lake, David, “Notice in terms of sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the companies act, 2008”.
 Lake, David. “Notice in Terms of Sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the Companies Act, 2008,” 1 August 2018. https://dc.sourceafrica.net/documents/118415-180801-Notice-to-Affected-Parties-Mintails.html (accessed 21 June 2020).
 Bega; Olalde and Matikinca.
 South African National Assembly; Mark Olalde and Andiswa Matikinca, “Directors targeted for Mintails mess,” Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism, December 2018, https://oxpeckers.org/2018/12/mintails-directors -targeted/ (accessed 4 November 2019); Sheree Bega, “Illegal miners hit Mintails mine on West Rand,” IOL News, 1 June 2019, https://www.iol.co.za/ saturday-star/watch-illegal-miners-hit-mintails-mine-on-west-rand-24637889 (accessed 4 November 2019).
 The federation for a sustainable environment. “FSE’s Notice of Motion and Founding Affidavit: Minitails Group,” September 6, 2019. https://www.fse.org.za/index.php/mining/item/703-fse-s-notice-of-motion-and-founding-affidavit-mintails-group (accessed June 21, 2020).; Bega, Sheree. “A Battle to Hold Mining Company Accountable.” IOL News, February 26, 2020. https://www.iol.co.za/saturday-star/a-battle-to-hold-mining-company-accountable-19518065 (accessed June 21, 2020).
Please visit www.mindthegap.nog
Toxic green algae in the Vaal River is caused by eutrophication, which harms water quality and impacts river life. Supplied
Article by Sheree Bega
The black, sewage-contaminated water that flows from the Rietspruit into the Loch Vaal is so polluted that even algae struggles to grow in its polluted depths.
“All we get is black sewage sludge in areas where there’s less current,” explains Mike Gaade, who lives on the banks of the Rietspruit in Vanderbijlpark.
But sightings of cyanobacteria blooms of toxic blue-green algae in the main Vaal River, caused by sewage, are becoming more frequent, particularly in summer, he says.
That the Vaal is becoming eutrophic is a real concern, says water scientist Professor Anthony Turton.
Eutrophication causes an overgrowth of algae that harms water quality, reduces oxygen, produces toxins, impacts river and marine life and affects food and human health.
“Once a water body becomes eutrophic and cyanobacteria becomes established, no known method in SA has ever been able to reverse that process,” Turton explains.
SA’s most eutrophic water is in Hartbeespoort Dam - the most studied of all systems. “Despite the very best scientists being unleashed on the problem, we have been unable to restore the system to its previous trophic status. With our current available knowledge, it’s safe to believe the Vaal is now becoming eutrophic and this is going to persist as the the new normal.”
Eutrophication is the “logical outcome” of discharging high levels of phosphates and nitrates into river systems - natural nutrients that drive the production of plant biomass. “Biomass typically takes two forms in SA - the familiar problem of water hyacinth at Hartbeestpoort Dam and the cyanobacteria blooms of blue-green algae that the Vaal is now succumbing to.”
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has now released its draft inception report for its National Eutrophication Strategy. The strategy, with its 10-year horizon, seeks to provide guidance to the DWS and water sector at large “on strategies to avoid, reduce, mitigate and manage the effects of eutrophication on SA’s water resources”.
It notes that the project was initially started in 2002 and “never completed” but was reinstated last year.
“The issue of eutrophication had not received adequate attention, previously, which could have been one of the reasons the situation exacerbated even more,” reads the report.
The Integrated Water Quality Management (IWQM) Policies and Strategies for SA in 2016 and 2017 "emphasised eutrophication as one of the country’s pressing water-quality challenges, along with salinisation, acid mine drainage, urban pollution and sedimentation”, it states.
Eutrophication, says Turton, is an old problem that has now reached “catastrophic proportions” due mostly to the failure of the DWS in its role as national regulator. “DWS has allowed the Blue and Green Drop Reporting Standard to fall into dysfunction. This has allowed municipalities to act with impunity knowing they will never be sanctioned for non-compliance. The biggest culprit is the 824 wastewater treatment works (sewage plants) we have in every municipality. About 60% of them are now dysfunctional, so they collectively discharge over 5billion litres of sewage into our rivers daily. We draw our drinking water from those same rivers.”
No bulk water provider in the country that takes water from a river and produces potable water uses technology capable of removing the toxic by-product of eutrophic water: microcystin. “This is a potent molecule that is released when the cyanobacteria is distressed. The molecule becomes parts of the water and cannot be filtered out from the water.
“This means that South African citizens will increasingly be exposed to microcystin as long as our wastewater plants continue to fail.
“Eutrophication is a slow onset disaster that will plague SA for the next generation. The manifestation will increasingly be in the form of low dose but long-term exposure to microcystin. The coronavirus has merely added a new complication, because of the potential for faecal-oral transmission through contaminated rivers.”
Satellite work by the CSIR has already revealed that 60% of the country’s dams are eutrophic.
Sightings of blue-green algae, caused by sewage, is becoming more frequent, especially in summer. Supplied
In his 2015 paper, “Living with Eutrophication in SA: A review of realities and challenges”, scientist William Harding noted how the socio-economic well-being of SA is largely dependent on reservoir lakes, with between 41% and 76% of total storage eutrophic or hypertrophic.
“This is in stark contrast to a claimed 5% made by the DWS. Data and information on the incidence and toxicity of cyanobacterial blooms are sparse, yet severe problems exist The most seriously impacted reservoirs are located in the economic heartland of SA, which has an extant regional water-quality crisis.”
Many of SA’s rivers, reservoirs, and coastal lakes “no longer have the resilience to assimilate nutrients or sequestrate toxicants”, the paper found.
“The responsible agency (DWS) urgently needs to establish a reservoir management programme that embraces remaining individual and institutional memory, integrates all available knowledge and scientific findings, prioritises needs and acquires those skills and resources necessary to meet what is likely to become a crippling legacy of inaction.”
Eutrophication is a “big challenge and the situation is worsening”, says CSIR senior researcher Dr Melusi Thwala, who studies emerging environmental pollutants and water quality. “However, it is mostly dams/large impoundments that have historically faced such a challenge because they act as reservoirs in which pollutants such as nutrients can accumulate over time.
“For instance, in excess of 40% of approximately 500 large impoundments are eutrophic and others exhibit a character of non-natural nutrient enrichment.
“For river systems more and more cases are being observed but in smaller systems the rainy season can provide a dilution relief effect, but not so much in large systems such as the Vaal and Olifants rivers.”
Their hard-working nature means that large river systems receive continuous and large nutrient inputs from various anthropogenic (human-caused) activities, with “municipal wastewater treatment works being a priority input source due to their declining capacity to treat wastewater”.
“Simply put, the more human settlements, the more sewage waste is produced, sometimes exceeding the volumes that wastewater treatment works can handle. Agricultural and industrial activities also contribute nutrients into rivers,” Thwala says.
Mariette Liefferink, the chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, says the most important drivers of eutrophication are dysfunctional waste water treatment works, dense informal settlements without proper sanitation, vandalism of sewage reticulation systems and sewage spills over many years into receiving streams.
“The tipping point has already been reached, beyond which, our ecosystems can no longer absorb and process the nutrients and other pollutants being passed on to it.”
The actions proposed by the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan is to by 2020, “identify and prosecute big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national communication campaign to accompany the action inclusive of reviving the Blue Scorpions”.
“The above-mentioned actions must be implemented concurrently with the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy," she says. "Failure to prosecute municipalities and other polluters will render the objectives of the strategy impotent.”
Eutrophication is a core priority of the Integrated National Water Resource Strategy and was identified as an issue of concern by the DWS in 2009.
It was highlighted in the Continuation of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy Study (Phase 2) in March last year as an "unaddressed issue of concern".
Tackling it is entirely reliant on activities performed within the DWS, catchment management agencies (CMAs), together with other institutions within the water sector, Liefferink says. “However, the lethargy in completing the roll-out and delegations to CMAs is a major issue of concern. The development of the strategy is at risk to be aborted unless CMAs become functional.”
Eutrophication is a "crisis of unprecedented proportions", says Turton made all the more problematic because few people outside of the aquatic sciences and environmental health community "are aware that such a problem even exists”.
Comments attached for download.
Find the report attached for download.
Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging and into people’s homes.
Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)
Article by Sheree Bega | original article here.
On the map, Bernice Maritz lives in Connaught Avenue. But her family have another name for it: Shit Street.
A pool of sewage gathers like a dark stain on the street in Peacehaven or “Poohaven” as it’s been described, in Vereeniging.
The spillages are often far worse. “Usually our whole street is covered in sewage,” said Maritz. “That’s why my mom calls it 'Shit Street', because that’s all there is. The smell is terrible.”
She was home a few weeks ago when a stinking torrent of human waste flooded her yard. “It was horrible,” said Maritz, as she stepped across remnants of the spillage. “This whole area, everything, was covered in sewage. We had poo, toilet paper, condoms and nappies, all over our garden. The sewage went through the walls It’s so unhealthy to live like this, especially now with the coronavirus."
“This stopped being sewage a long time ago,” said local resident Tersia Venter, flicking through an endless stream of photos of sewage spills in the area on her phone. “If you can see human turds in the street, it’s not sewage anymore.”
The Vaal’s sewage pollution crisis has hit hard in Vereeniging. Many of the region’s 44 pump stations remain dysfunctional, with the impact “particularly noticeable in Vereeniging, with ongoing high sewage pollution levels in the Vaal River and in the streets”, according to local environmental watchdog Save the Vaal Environment (Save).
Between Vereeniging and the Vaal Barrage, the river remains polluted, contaminating water supplies in Parys and communities further downstream.
The non-profit said Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had “taken a leadership role” in the R1.2 billion Vaal Intervention Project, which aims to repair Emfuleni municipality’s wastewater treatment system: a 2600 km pipe network, the 44 pump stations and three wastewater plants that collapsed in 2017. Still, “there’s a long way to go before we see a sewage and pollution-free Vaal River in the Emfuleni area”.
In recent months, the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (Erwat) took over from the SANDF, which could not complete its refurbishment programme as it was not properly funded.
“We did not really see any improvement in Peacehaven when the army was here and the only change we now see is when the trucks are here to pump out the sewage,” said Venter, the secretary of the Vereeniging community policing forum.
“It looks good today because these guys are here. But if they don’t come back within three days, then we sit with a major problem again. Most of the people here in Peacehaven can’t use their own freakin’ toilets and showers. The moment they do, the sewage spills over into their housesThey cannot walk from one side of their own freakin’ driveway to the other side because they’re walking through sewage. Since 2017, this has been normal to us and that’s unacceptable.”
For the last few months, sewage has no longer been permanently running in her street, said Zelda Mullen, who lives in Peacehaven. But it still pushes up from a manhole, pooling in her flowerbed. The stench is unbearable. “It's been here for years. We can't braai outside here. It stinks. God forbid, you start cooking."
She wondered if her family’s proximity to the sewage could have been to blame for her 63-year-old husband, developing life-threatening septicaemia in March.
“The doctors said it was probably airborne. He didn’t have an operation, no illness, nothing. So we don’t know if it was that (sewage), but hello, when you’ve lived with shit on your street and in your home ..."
Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging and into people’s homes.
Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)
John was in ICU for 17 days and had kidney, liver and heart failure. “The kids had to come from the UK because we thought this was it. It will take a year-and-a-half for him to fully recover. We’re so sick of living in the Vaal.”
Across the country, the municipal sewage system has crumbled. The government's Water and Sanitation Master Plan reveals 56% of the 1150 municipal wastewater treatment works and 44% of the 962 water treatment works, are in a poor or critical condition, with 11% dysfunctional.
Between 1999 and 2011, the extent of main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500%, with “some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery”.
Environmental activist Mariette Liefferink, said the Vaal River is the country’s most hard-working. “It’s a very important river system because it supplies water to 60% of the economy and 40% of the population and it augments other river systems like the Crocodile West and Limpopo river system ... What has happened to the Vaal is like a festering sore that took years to manifest.”
Since Erwat took over, it has unblocked pipes in the sewage network, but the "benefits will only be seen when all pump and treatment plants are fully operational,” said Save.
Erwat removed "50 tons of rubble in the system, cleaned 25km of lines, fixed or unblocked 383 manholes, replaced 460 manholes" and improved the flow to the three wastewater treatment works, according to Save member Mike Gaade.
The DWS was not extending Erwat’s one-year contract at month end and was “now directly responsible for this project”.
DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said negotiations were still under way. “Whether they continue or someone else takes over is something that will be finalised in a week or two.
“What they have done is what they were expected to, which is quite a good bit. There is improvement but it’s not optimal.
"Until we’re able to resolve the whole situation, we cannot rest on our laurels,” he said.
South Africa - Johannesburg - 18 June 2020 - Mike Gaade from Rietspruit in the Vaal talks about how the sewage continues to spill and affect the river.
Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)
Rietspruit suffers the consequences of ineffective wastewater treatment
The completion of expansion to the Sebokeng wastewater treatment plant is a step in the right direction, says Save. “This project started several years ago and came to a standstill in 2018 due to lack of funds. It was 96% complete at that point. Under the Minister’s watch, this project was restarted in mid-May 2020. July 2020 seems to be a realistic completion date.”
The new module will treat about one third of the Sebokeng treatment plant’s wastewater when operational. The rest of the Sebokeng plant has not been working since it was vandalised two years ago. “Work is required on that plant so that the remaining two thirds of sewage can be properly treated.”
There is no information about when effluent pumped into the Rietspruit from this plant will be fully compliant with required standards, it says.
“Work is required on the Rietspruit plant, which is currently operating at some 30% of its capacity and has been deteriorating for years. Yet, its repair programme has been left continuously on the back burner.
"This plant continues to be a major contributor to pollution of the Rietspruit and Vaal Rivers, and has caused a build-up of some 1.5m of black sludge on the riverbed where the Rietspruit enters Loch Vaal.”
It continues to pump poorly-treated sewage into the Rietspruit. Save's Mike Gaade, who lives on the banks of the polluted Rietspruit, has gone from optimistic to "mildly pessimistic" in the last six months.
“All the promises we get have not been fulfilled ... It's about four years that the sewage sludge has been coming down here to the Rietspruit but it got really bad in November 2017. It's a bit better, partly because they've unblocked some of the pipes and got the flow going ... The sewage crisis affecting everywhere from the Klip the other side of Vereeniging right through the whole town and in the streets and then it's affecting Parys."
In October, Save agreed to suspend litigation to give the intervention team an opportunity to show progress, but it warns that unless there’s a drastic improvement, it will continue court proceedings.
BASEL GOLD DAY - HOW TO OBTAIN CLEAN GOLD: THE FSE'S PRESENTATION
Please find the following attached for download: 1. Basel Gold Day: How to obtain clean gold - the consumer perspective 2. Basel Gold Day: Presentation by the FSE
Attached for download: 1. ASM Policy 20202. FSE's Submission...
FSE's comments are attached for download....
FSE - DONATION OF TREES AND TREE PLANTING IN SIMUNYE, WEST RAND IN ASSOCIATION WITH SOUTH DEEP MINE
The FSE, in association with Gold Fields’ South Deep Mine, donated 40 white Karee Trees (Searsia penduline) during Arbor Week to the mining affected community of Simunye in the West Rand and participated in the tree planting ceremony with the community of Simunye, the local Municipality and officials from South Deep Mine. The FSE also delivered a presentation during the ceremony.
Article also available for download as an attachment.
Millions of South Africans are exposed to radioactive radon gas in their homes and workplaces every day, as the naturally occurring gas escapes through cracks in the earth. The second leading cause of lung cancer in several countries, radon breaks down and when inhaled, decaying atoms emit alpha radiation that can damage the DNA. There are no safe levels of radon concentration. The United States Environmental Protection Agency emphasises any radon exposure has some risk of causing lung cancer. Carte Blanche investigates why South Africa has no regulations to protect against radon accumulation in the home and what you can do to test your home and prevent lung cancer. Watch the video here.
Economics & Finance Courses at the University of the Witwatersrand. Mining for Development: The Taxation Linkage - Understand taxation for development and sustainability in mining. View the course here. Enrolment starts on the 7th of October 2019.
The Federation for a Sustainable Environment’s ongoing role in addressing the sewage pollution in the Vaal River
‘People the same as pigs’ in the VaalBy Sheree Bega | 16 Oct 2020 Foul: Pigs root in sludge in Emfuleni municipality. (Photos: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G) Clutching her one-year-old son, Monica Ndakisa jumps onto a brick to avoid the sewage that runs like a dark stain across the passage in her home. “We’ve lived like this for years,” she says pointing to one of the culprits: her blocked toilet, which causes sewage to pool into nearly every room of her home in Sebokeng hostel in the Vaal. “The smell is too terrible.” It’s worse outside. Her small garden is submerged in a sickly, grey sewage swamp. To stop the human waste from seeping inside, Ndakisa has built a concrete barrier at her front door. But it’s futile. “My five-year-old son was in the hospital for two weeks with severe eczema and they told me it’s because of all this sewage. It makes us cough all the time. It’s so depressing to live like this.” Samson Mokoena, of the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (Veja), shakes his head. “It’s chaos. You can’t allow people to live in such conditions. The government is playing with our people.” Ndakisa’s neighbour, Maphelo Apleni, has used pipes to divert the stream of sewage from his garden. “It never stops,” he says grimly. “We have a municipality [Emfuleni] that doesn’t care about us.” Mziwekaya Mokwana points at a sewage-filled furrow clogged with litter where pigs are feeding. “This is no better life,” he says. “People are the same as pigs here.” Sewage in Vaal River system Last month, the human settlements, water and sanitation department said it would take at least another three years to minimise and eventually stop the sewage flowing into the Vaal River system. In a recent presentation, it states how “design treatment capacity is at its limit, housing development investments are delayed and there are negative environmental and health impacts”. Ageing infrastructure is to blame for sewage spillages, coupled “with a lack of operation and maintenance investment” as well as theft and vandalism. It will cost about R2.2-billion “to have a sustainable impact on the Vaal River catchment within Emfuleni local municipality”. The department’s plan aims to safeguard infrastructure; repair the bulk network to eliminate spillages, key and critical pump stations and rising mains; refurbish wastewater treatment works “in an attempt to comply with discharge licence conditions”; and achieve operation and maintenance requirements. But Maureen Stewart, the vice-chairperson of Save the Vaal (Save) is sceptical. She says there is no political will to tackle the crisis. “These problems go back over 12 yearsand reached crisis proportions when the system collapsed in 2018. The result is some 200 million litres of raw or partially treated sewage entering the Vaal River and its tributaries daily.” Stewart warns that it’s an ecological disaster that also affects agriculture and has serious health implications for people living above and below the Vaal Barrage Reservoir, which is 64km long and used to supply Johannesburg with water but is now too polluted to do so. She says the Emfuleni municipality has been under Gauteng’s administration since mid-2018 and, despite promises, the status quo remains — unbridled sewage pollution of the Vaal River and Emfuleni. “The Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (Erwat) was appointed to take over in 2019 and were given funding and spent R179-million. Their contribution was to unblock pipes and remove 50 tons of rubbish from the system. This opened the pipes but, as the pump stations and the three wastewater treatment plants remain dysfunctional, there has been no improvement. Raw sewage continues to flow into the Vaal River and into the streets of Emfuleni.” Monica Ndakisa sweeps overspill from her toilet. There was a “glimmer of hope” when Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, visited the Vaal in January this year, assuring Save that action will be taken and that funds are earmarked in the 2020-2021 budget. “It seems her enthusiasm has not filtered down to her department,” says Stewart. “After Erwat’s contract was not renewed, the department stated they would undertake the repairs by appointing their own contractors. Tender documents have been languishing on someone’s desk at the department since July.” Sputnik Ratau, spokesperson for the department, says the government has committed resources towards solving the sewage problem in the Vaal. “Government sent state institutions to assist Emfuleni local municipality (ELM) in this regard; these include SANDF and Erwat. Recently, the department finalised the scope of all that needs to be done to solve the sewage problem. There are 26 work packages that will be advertised in the coming weeks for competent contractors to take part in solving the sewage challenge in the Vaal.” The department, says Ratau, aims to have a “busy festive season” working with the appointed contractors. “In the 2020/21 financial year, the department has committed R911-million towards solving this challenge. The total investment by the department in 2020/21 financial year is R1.2-billion in the Vaal; this includes the building of additional wastewater treatment capacity and associated pump stations.” Maphelo Apleni installs pipes to drain sewage out of his garden. Before the end of the financial year Module 6 in Sebokeng water care works will be launched, “subject to no community unrest disrupting construction”. The department, Ratau says, has to take all necessary precautions to ensure that section 217 of the constitution is followed as far as procurement is concerned. “Thus the departmental checks and balances had to be followed to the letter to ensure compliance with procurement processes. This unfortunately caused delays but was necessary.” Within the next month the department aims to advertise for all the contractors “that can assist in this challenge”. Ratau says commitment dates, including start and completion dates, “will be sent not only to Save but all interested stakeholders once the contractors are appointed. The department cannot preempt this before the appointments are made.” He says that R7-billion is required to “solve the pollution challenge in ELM. This needs to be coupled with operations and maintenance, which is a function of ELM at local government level”. Save is once again taking the government to court to enforce legislation to ensure infrastructure is repaired within phased completion dates and that sufficient funds are made available for ongoing maintenance and operation of the system by the municipality, supervised by the high court. Veja’s Mokoena is glad the department is taking over the Vaal clean-up. “This situation was supposed to be fixed a long time ago. So much money has been squandered at the municipal level.” Rand Water’s delay Eight months. That’s how long it took Rand Water to release public water quality records for the Vaal Barrage system to a team of aquatic specialists investigating the ecological health of the river system. In January, Aquatic Ecosystems of Africa submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application to Rand Water for access to its water quality analysis data for the Vaal Barrage and downstream since 2015. Nothing happened, it says, until Tshepang Sebulela, the Paia compliance officer from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) intervened late last month. New pipelines are being installed in the Vaal. In an email to Rand Water, Sebulela noted how the multiple requests for records by Aquatic Ecosystems and the Federation for a Sustainable Environment have allegedly been ignored, which in terms of Paia are deemed refusals. “The SAHRC is greatly concerned by a large number of public institutions who provide such important services to the public who refuse to meet their basic legislative obligations,” he wrote. The records landed in the firm’s inbox on 2 October. Aquatic Systems’ Simone Liefferink says sourcing surface water system data is becoming increasingly difficult. “It’s disturbing the data is not adequately managed, readily accessible to the public and private sectors who pay tax and other water charges for effective catchment management to be implemented.” Rand Water did not explain the reason behind the delay. That the information was provided in a PDF format of almost 2 000 pages “frustrates and delays” its interpretation, says Liefferink. She and her partner, Russell Tate, began their investigation after a major fish kill in the Vaal River in mid-2018. That September they testified at the HRC’s inquiry into the contamination of the Vaal River that high levels of ammonia from the wastewater treatment works was wiping out life in the river system. A snap-shot analysis of the data provided by Rand Water shows high levels of E coli, ammonium and ammonia — key indicators of sewage pollution. Average E coli counts soared from 12 705 colony-forming units per 100ml in 2010 to more than 107 000 in 2018 and 66 923 in 2020. “The contributing factor is clear — dysfunctional sewage treatment conveyances and treatment plants. More disturbing is the long-standing deterioration of the system that ever increases the loss of biodiversity and other essential ecological functions and human services. Yet this matter is still not treated with extreme urgency,” says Liefferink. HRC’s long-awaited report It’s taken nearly two years for the Human Rights Commission to release its report into the Emfuleni sewage crisis. “Their report has not yet been taken to parliament, nor has it been published. Why?” asks Save’s Stewart. Buang Jones, the Gauteng manager of the HRC, says the provincial report has been finalised. “It’s with the commissioners now for final adoption and approval. Once it’s been approved, it will be shared with implicated parties and they’ll have 10 days to comment. This is a countrywide issue and the report seeks to address broader challenges when it comes to river pollution and wastewater management,” he says. Read the original article here.
The Intervention document is attached for download....
Attached documents:1. DWS Eutrophication SA & GA PSC 1 BID2. PSC 1 Meeting A...