Editor

Editor

By: Nelendhre Moodley | original article here.

Following poor water control measures over the years, South Africa now finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place as its dire water situation continues to worsen. Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu recently launched South Africa’s National Water and Sanitation Master Plan – but is the plan too little too late? Infrastructure recently caught up with the Federation for a Sustainable Environment’s CEO Mariette Liefferink for a view on exactly how severe South Africa’s water challenges really are and whether the country will be able to meet its sustainable development goals in relation to water by 2030.

Citing the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan’s Call to Action launched in November 2019, Liefferink says the document highlighted South Africa’s shocking water situation, with 56% of wastewater treatment works and 44% of water treatment works reported as being in a poor or critical condition, with 11% dysfunctional.

“More than 50% of South Africa’s wetlands have been lost, and of those that remain, 33% are in poor ecological condition. Furthermore, 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. In addition, municipalities are losing about 1 660 million cubed metres per year through non-revenue water – this includes all water supplied that isn’t paid for, including physical water losses through leaks in the distribution system, illegal connections, unbilled consumption and billed, but unpaid, water use. At a unit cost of R6/m3 this amounts to R9.9-billion each year.”

Added to this are the delays in the implementation of Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (to augment the Vaal River System for greater Gauteng), the uMkhomazi Water Project Phase 1 (to augment the Mgeni System for the KwaZulu-Natal Coastal Metropolitan Area) and the augmentation of the Western Cape Water Supply System, which have significantly impacted on water security, and subsequently on the socio-economies of the areas.

“If demand continues to grow at current levels, the deficit between water supply and demand could be between 2.7 and 3.8 billion m3/a by 2030, a gap of about 17% of available surface and groundwater,” notes Lifferink.

Given the severity of South Africa’s water challenges, the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan called for the following interventions:

  • Revitalisation of the Green, Blue and No Drop programmes and the publication of results annually.
  • Identification and prosecution of major non-compliant abstractors (water thieves) across the country, with a national communication campaign to accompany the action by 2020.
  • Identifying and prosecution of big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national communication campaign to accompany the action by 2020.
  • Declaration of strategic water source areas and critical groundwater recharge areas and aquatic ecosystems recognised as threatened or sensitive as protected areas by 2021.
  • Review and promulgation of aggressive restrictions within the legislation to restore and protect ecological infrastructure by 2020.
  • Secure funds for restoration and ongoing maintenance of ecological infrastructure through operationalising the water pricing strategy annually.
  • Establishing financially sustainable Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) across the country, and transferring staff and budget and delegated functions, including licensing of water use and monitoring and evaluation of water resources by 2020.
  • Establishment of a National Water Resources and Services Authority and Regulator by 2020.

“Although government had planned to have these measures in place, at the time of writing the FSE was not aware that any progress had been achieved on the targeted areas,” says Liefferink. “We hope that the impact of the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan will be delivered through action, and through the recognition that ‘you cannot drink paper plans’.”

Given the depth of South Africa’s water challenges, is there a chance of meeting its sustainable development goals (SDGs)?

In 2015, South Africa committed to adopt the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including Sustainable Development Goal 6 which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Included in the SDG report, says Liefferink, is target 6.3 which is focused on improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and reuse globally by 2030; with target 6.6 looking to protect and restore water-related ecosystems.

“According to the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation’s River EcoStatus Monitoring Programme State of Rivers Report 2017-2018, only 15% of South Africa’s rivers are in a good condition and the Vaal River Water Management Area has no sites that are in a good condition; and according to the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) National Biodiversity Assessment: The Status of South Africa’s Ecosystems and Biodiversity, two-thirds of the total length of South Africa’s rivers are in a poor ecological condition.”

Furthermore, the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Directorate’s presentation on wetlands and lakes noted that the SA National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) 2018 indicated that while 6% of wetlands were protected, 79% were in the threatened category.

In addition, “despite the interventions of the SA Defence Force, Ekurhuleni Water Care Company, the minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and the South African Human Rights Commission in the pollution caused by spillages of raw sewage into the Vaal River, the situation has continued to deteriorate. Rand Water’s quarterly water quality results show that the in-stream quality of water at the Rietspruit at Sebokeng has E. coli counts of 9 188 000per 100ml. The regulatory limit is 400 counts per 100ml. E. coli in water is a strong indication of sewage or animal waste contamination. In light of these factors, it is difficult to see how South Africa will reach its SDG by 2030,” says Liefferink.

Tackling our water woes

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Liefferink has painted a dire picture of South Africa’s water situation. But can new legislative interventions and the mining industry’s endeavours curb the downward slide?

While practical on-the-ground developments remain sluggish, government has made some headway through the promulgation of new water rules and regulations, which include the Water and Sanitation Department’s publication (a collaboration with the Minerals Council) called Benchmarks for Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM) In the Mining Sector.

The commodity-based national water use efficiency benchmark aims to guide the acceptable levels of water usage by the mining industry, and to improve water use efficiency within the mining operations.

In addition, the Department of Environmental Affairs has published the Proposed Regulations pertaining to Financial Provisioning for the Rehabilitation and Remediation of Environmental Damage caused by reconnaissance, Prospecting and Exploration which notes that “financial provision must guarantee the availability of sufficient funds for the remediation and management of residual and latent environmental damage including the ongoing pumping and treatment of polluted or extraneous water”.

According to Liefferink, this in essence means that the CEO or business rescue practitioner of the company is responsible for implementing the rehabilitation plans.

“What is new is the fact that the liquidator or business rescue practitioner is also responsible for the determination of the financial provision and the implementing the rehabilitation plans and report.”

Liefferink also flags the South African Human Rights Commission which has directed the Department of Water and Sanitation to comply with the following:

  • Include in their annual reports the number of compliance notices or other sanctions imposed including the proportion of successful interventions and/or criminal prosecutions undertaken against non-compliance.
  • Take definitive steps to ensure legal protection of our water sources areas through the deployment ofthe relevant legislative tools in place.
  • Provide a report on the current state of water monitoring, including:
    • Conducting regular determination of the water reserve, including how the DWS accounts for anticipated migration and population growth, limitations or inadequacies in municipal infrastructure as well as other potential impacts on the availability of water resources, such as drought.
    • Audit on all existing water-use licences to ensure they adequately protect the water reserve, including basic needs and ecological requirements.
    • Monitor compliance with water-use licences and its impacts, particularly in mining areas, and the impact mining has and will have on the water reserve and how this aligns with the National Strategic Plan for Water.

The FSE has yet to receive a response on the Human Rights Commission’s progress in relation to the directives, says Liefferink, however the mining industry has been more proactive in progressing its water agenda, especially Sibanye-Stillwater and DRDGOLD.

Diversified mining house Sibanye-Stillwater, which was recognised as the most ‘collaborative’ and ‘water-saving’ company in the local mining industry by Rand Water in November last year, has participated in the creation of the Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM) Assessment Tool.

In line with its water-wise agenda, the miner has a number of initiatives under way including:

  • Potable water independence: using alternative available groundwater sources and rainwater harvesting to help reduce its reliance on purchased water sources.
  • Reduce water loss through:
    • implementing effective real-time metering, water balance management reporting, proactive leak detection and immediate repair initiatives.
    • minimising losses of water through evaporation and seepage by optimising the density of tailings deposition and recovering and recycling of water at our tailing facilities.
    • improving water-use efficiency by tracking and managing water-use efficiency KPIs for all consumers.

Gold surface retreatment company DRDGOLD too continues to progress its water conservation plans, which include reclamation interventions at its operations aimed at removing sources of pollution, rehabilitating targeted areas and enhancing ecosystem functioning, including attraction of fauna and flora, and improved water quality, among others.

“We hope that more mining companies will be proactive rather than reactive as far as mine water management is concerned and that businesses will realise that water security presents a critical and profound challenge to South Africa’s social well-being and economic growth. Poor water quality is one of the major threats to South Africa’s ability to provide sufficient water of suitable quality that can support development needs. The financial resources currently available for managing water quality are insufficient for the task, and do not recognise the level of investment that is required to counteract the economic harm done by declining water quality,” says Liefferink.


Image: Jozi Gold ©Maanda-Nwendamutswu

 

‘n Voortgesette en oormatige geraas van die Tiger Brands fabriek in die industriële gebied het inwoners in die Suiddorp genoodsaak om die fabriek vir geraasbesoedeling aan te kla.

Tiger Brands in Potchefstroom word van geraasbesoedeling aangekla.
 

‘n Voortgesette en oormatige geraas van die Tiger Brands fabriek in die industriële gebied het inwoners in die Suiddorp genoodsaak om die fabriek vir geraasbesoedeling aan te kla.

Een van die inwoners, Sarel Eloff, wat vir 43 jaar in Pepplerstraat woon, sê die geraas het al in November 2019 begin. Hy het die fabriek in Desember geskakel om formeel ‘n klag in te dien, maar is aangeraai om dit aan die begin van Januarie 2020 te doen, omdat die fabriek in Desember gesluit het. Hy het op 4 Januarie ‘n e-pos aan Cornelius Mtshali gestuur wat die ontvangs van die brief erken het en dit ook aan ander personeellede, onder meer die fabrieksbestuurder en ‘n ingenieur, aangestuur het.

Mtshali het na ‘n klep aan die agterkant van die “ace plant” verwys en voorgestel om Momentum vir ‘n geraasopname te nader.

Intussen het die inwoners gewag dat die probleem opgelos moet word. Aan die begin van Mei het ‘n polisiebeampte die Herald gebel en gevra dat daar ondersoek ingestel moet word, omdat daar niks aan die geraasbesoedeling gedoen word nie. “Die geraas duur dag en nag voort. Ek werk skofte en is desperaat omdat ek nie kan slaap nie,” het hy gesê.

Ander inwoners het hulle ontevredenheid met die geraas op die Potchefstroom Facebookblad gedeel. Een daarvan was Magda Kroukamp wat op 4 Mei om 21:35 skryf: “Naand almal, ons bly in Chris Hanistraat. Ons hoor ‘n harde snaakse geluid buite. Kan dit nie beskryf nie, maar dis irriterend. Wie hoor dit ook?” Adelle Kock reageer op dieselfde boodskap en skryf: “Ja dit irriteer baie mense en Tiger Brands doen niks daaraan nie.”

Die Herald het daarna ‘n fabrieksbestuurder van Tiger Brands geskakel om te hoor of hulle van die klagtes bewus is. Hy het gesê dat hy niks daarvan af weet nie, maar dat hy sal ondersoek instel.

Inwoners het hulle klagtes aan raadslid Johan Zerwick oorgedra wat weer op sy beurt ‘n gesondheidsinspekteur van J.B Marks genader het. Thebe Gaonnwe, waarnemende bestuurder vir munisipale gesondheid van die Dr. Kenneth Kauda distrik munisipaliteit, is tans aangestel om die saak verder te ondersoek. Gaonnwe het die Herald verseker dat hulle eersdaags beplan om ‘n telefoniese onderhoud met die bestuur van Tiger Brands te voer en dat hulle dit later met ‘n skriftelike kennisgewing sal opvolg.

Die Herald het intussen Mariëtte Liefferink, die hoof uitvoerende beampte van “The Federation for a Sustainable Environment” gekontak, om meer agtergrond oor geraasbesoedeling te kry.

Sy sê dat geraasbesoedeling deel is van omgewingswetgewing wat in die grondwet vervat is. Die grondwet lê neer dat almal die reg het op ‘n omgewing wat nie skadelik vir hulle gesondheid en welstand is nie.

Liefferink sê dat geraasbesoedeling net so skadelik vir mense is as enige ander besoedeling. “Blootstelling aan voortgesette of oormatige geraas kan gesondheidsprobleme veroorsaak wat stres, swak konsentrasie, verlies aan produktiwiteit by die werk en uitputting weens ‘n gebrek aan slaap tot gevolg het. In meer ernstige gevalle kan dit lei tot kardiovaskulêre siektes, kognitiewe gebreke, tinnitus en gehoorverlies.”

Sy haal die Nasionale Omgewingsbestuurswet 107 van 1998 aan wanneer sy besoedeling verduidelik en sê dat besoedeling enige verandering in die omgewing is wat ‘n negatiewe uitwerking op die gesondheid en welstand van die mens het.

Verder verduidelik sy steurende geraas en sê dat dit volgens die geraasregulasies van 1998 verklaar kan word. “Steurende geraas in terme van die geraasregulasies van 1998 beteken die vlak van geraas oorskrei die omringende klankvlak wat deurlopend op dieselfde meetpunt van 7dBA gemeet word. Die dBA beteken die waarde van die klankdruk vlak in desibels. “Steurende geraas beteken enige geluid wat ‘n persoon se gemak en vrede versteur of belemmer,” sê Liefferink.

Gemeet aan Liefferink se verduideliking van geraasbesoedeling, is dit dus duidelik dat die Suiddorp aan geraasbesoedeilng blootgestel word.

Liefferink sê verder dat plaaslike gesag moet vasstel of die geraas bo die aanvaarbare norm is. Munisipale gesondheid is dus hiervoor verantwoordelik en moet ‘n skrywe rig aan die persoon/instansie wat die geraas veroorsaak waarin hulle aangespreek moet word om die geraas te stop of om die vlakke van geraas te verminder.

Die Herald het Tiger Brands vir kommentaar genader en gevra wat hulle beplan om die geraasbesoedeling op te los.

Mediawoordvoerder van Tiger Brands, Kanyisa Ndyondya, sê hulle het dadelik die klagte van die publiek opgevolg en het die departement van Arbeid se goedgekeurde inspeksieowerheid genader om ‘n omtrek geraasopname te doen.

“Die opname het aangedui dat ‘n hoër vlak van geraas (5 desibels hoër) in die nag by die oostelike kant van die fabriek voorkom, wat toegeskryf kan word aan die waaier wat by die area geïnstalleer is. Om die probleem op te los, het die fabriek se ingenieur ‘n knaldemper (silencer) by die waaier geïnstalleer.

Ndyondya sê verder dat hulle ‘n onafhanklike derde party met die nodige kundigheid en toerusting genader het om die situasie te evalueer en hulle verwag dat dit deur die loop van die week afgehandel sal wees. “Dit sal die fabriek in staat stel om die mees betroubare en akkurate inligting aan die aangrensende gemeenskap te verskaf.

Ndyondya sê verder dat Tiger Brands die gemeenskap bedank vir hulle volgehoue ondersteuning. Hulle verseker die inwoners ook dat hulle toegeweid is om die probleem op te los.

by Venessa van Der Westhuizen | original article here.

The following comments are submitted – with diffidence and deference - on behalf of the Federation for Sustainable Environment (FSE). The FSE is a member of a number of theDepartment of Water and Sanitation’s Steering-, Project- and Strategy Steering Committees, Implementation Task Teams; Expert Steering Committees; the WSSLG’s SDG6 Task Teamand a number of Catchment Management Forums.

From a reading of the Inception Report in terms of the Development of the National Eutrophication Strategy we deduce that the Scope of Work will include inter alia a report on eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes; the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy; putting the Strategy into Practice detailing the actions, the roles and timeframes; developing a monitoring and reporting system; stakeholder involvement; etc. The estimate timeframes from the 1st component to the implementation of the Strategy (“putting the Strategy into Practice”) will be approximately 20 months.

While we welcome the development of actions that would provide the detail necessary to turnthe National Eutrophication Strategy into action (s 2.4 of the Inception Report, titled “Strategyinto Practice”), such as the assignment of roles and responsibilities and the timeframes for undertaking the actions, it is the FSE’s considered opinion that it is not necessary to wait forthe development of the National Eutrophication Strategy to immediately implement a number of actions to address the challenges of eutrophication. Analogous to the FSE’srecommendation, the IWQM Policy identified eutrophication already in 2016 as one of the five aspects of water pollution as being priorities for immediate regulatory action at the national level.

The following challenges were identified by the DWS, which require immediate action:

1. The lethargy in completing the roll-out and delegations to catchment management agencies

page1image26058816page1image26066304page1image26058048

The Inception Report on page 1 informs us that “this project is entirely reliant on activities performed within the Department, the CMAs, together with other institutions within the watersector”.

It is common cause that the number of WMAs was reduced from nineteen (19) to nine (9) in 2013 and that the establishment of the CMAs has been slow. By the end of 2016, only two of the nine CMAs were established in terms of the National Water Act, 36 of 1998 and functional. No functions have been delegated to these bodies which are therefore currently only responsible for the limited initial functions of a CMAs as set out in the Act. DWS acts as CMAs in most of the country.

The National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, 2018 called for the establishment of financially sustainable CMAs across the country and transfer of staff and budget1 and delegate functions including licensing of water use and monitoring and evaluation of water resources by 2020.

Atthetimeofwritingweareunawareofanyprogressinthisregard. ThedevelopmentoftheNational Eutrophication Strategy (“the project”) is at risk to be aborted unless CMAs becomefunctional.

2. Dysfunctional Waste Water Treatment Works

A key contributor to the deterioration of water quality of South Africa’s water resources and the marked increase in nutrients and microbiological contaminants with associated health risks is the result of untreated or partially treated municipal wastewater discharges from sewage treatment works.

To exemplify:

The recent instream water quality results of the Rietspruit@Sebokeng within the Rietspruit Catchment Management Area as provided by Rand Water show an e-coli count of 9,188,000 per 100ml for the period January to March 2020.

The resulting eutrophication in major dams has caused health threats to livestock and humans.

We are of the considered opinion that the most important driver of eutrophication is dysfunctional waste water treatment works, dense informal settlements without proper sanitation, vandalism of sewage reticulation systems, and sewage spills over many years into receiving steams2. 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

1 There are substantial financial shortfalls if Catchment Management Agencies are to be fully implemented and operationalized.

2 The state of our waste water treatment works (56% of waste water treatment works and 44% of water treatment works are in a poor of critical condition; 11% are dysfunctional) has significantly impacted upon the ability of downstream ecosystems to operate effectively with nutrient build-up and a general drop in water quality. This has resulted in a nutrient build up in our rivers and wetlands. According to the NW&S Master Plan 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. South Africa has lost over 50% of its wetlands and of the remaining 3.2 hectares, that is, one third are already in a poor condition.

page2image25992704

communication campaign to accompany the action inclusive of reviving the Blue Scorpions”(1.4.8).

The above-mentioned actions, we respectfully suggest, must be implemented concurrently with the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy. Failure to prosecute municipalities and other polluters will render the objectives of the National Eutrophication Strategy impotent.

3. Eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes

As a deliverable in terms of s 2.2 of the Inception Report, a Report on eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes is envisioned.

Mining, in particular platinum mining, can result in increased nitrogen levels in groundwater through the use of nitrogen-based explosives. These various nitrate sources can contribute to mining-related impacts on the water resources.

Most commercial explosives contain between 70% and 90% ammonium nitrate – which is highly soluble in water. Spillages, dissolution in wet holes and incomplete detonation during blasting activities will result in soil and water contamination with nitrates, nitrites and ammonia. Nitrogen-rich water is typically pumped from the underground workings and then circulates through process water dams, the tailings dam return water and the concentrator plant. If not contained in the mine water circuit, surface spills or seepage through unlined facilities may pose a risk to groundwater. (Reference: https://www.srk.co.za/en/za-helping-mines-find- real-source-nitrates-water.)

Since algae and other plants use nitrates as a source of food, it may result if unchecked, in eutrophication.

In view of the aforesaid, the FSE recommends that the Report also includes the impacts of mining in the eutrophication challenges.

4. National Eutrophication Monitoring Programme

Finally, kindly advise regarding the status of the National Eutrophication Monitoring Programme which assesses trophic status, risks and trends of single impoundments, river reaches or canals.

SUBMITTED BY:
Mariette Liefferink.
CEO: FEDERATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT 2 June 2020.

Comments attached for download.

Saturday, 23 May 2020 13:53

COVID-related Directions Gazette

Attached hereto kindly find 3 Directions, made by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, in terms of regulation 4(10) of the Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (that was published on 29 April 2020 in Government Notice No. 480 in Government Gazette 43258), for your information.

Saturday, 23 May 2020 13:50

FSE's Report for April 2020

Find report attached for download. 

 ANNEXURE G ( FINAL RQOs - UPPER VAAL) - attached for download.

ANNEXURE B (NATIONAL WATER RESOURCE STRATEGY)
ANNEXURE C (IVRS RECONCILIATION STRATEGY)
& D (NEMA FINANCIAL REGULATIONS) - attached for download.

APPENDIX A - NATIONAL WATER AND SANITATION MASTER PLAN - attached for download.

The document with FSE's comments are attached for download.

Page 3 of 20

MINING

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

PROPOSED ARTISANAL MINING POLICY - DMRE'S PRESENTATION AND FSE'S SUBMISSION

Attached for download: 1. ASM Policy 20202. FSE's Submission...

SA NEWS

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.

"Varkies" gou op hok, maar als nie pluis | Beeld

Article also available for download as an attachment.

Radon Alert - Carte Blanche

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.

WITS Economics & Finance Courses: Mining for Development: The Taxation Linkage

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.

WATER

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.

POLLUTION OF THE VAAL RIVER INTERVENTION AS PRESENTED at Rietspruit Forum - Aug 2020

The Intervention document is attached for download....

Development of the National Eutrophication Strategy and Supporting Documents

Attached documents:1. DWS Eutrophication SA & GA PSC 1 BID2. PSC 1 Meeting A...