SAVE THE VAAL AT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION ENQUIRY
SAVE the VAAL has been very vocal, especially in social media, about the raw sewage pollution crisis in the Vaal River.
We are most appreciative to the many print, radio and TV journalists who visited the Vaal and created awareness about this disaster. SAVE organised ‘tours’ of the hotspots where torrents of raw sewage continue to gush into the Vaal River. The tour included Sebokeng, Three Rivers and other areas where living conditions are intolerable. Boat trips on the river have shown the media the devastating ecological impact.
Many thanks to SAVE’s Michae Gaade and Adele Andrews, Mpho Kang of New Horison Movement, Kas Lubbe of Riviera Villas and Vaal Environmental Justice’s Samson Mokoena and Mduduzi Tshabalala who have spent many hours of their time providing information to the journalists on these tours.
The publicity attracted the attention of the Human Rights Commission. HRC representatives visited the Vaal to assess possible infringements against humanrights. The HRC contacted SAVE who arranged a tour. This resulted in a 2,5 day HRC enquiry when individuals and organisations were invited to present their perspectives according to the HRC’s terms of reference.
SAVE was the first of many organisations to provide oral input to the enquiry. Other organisations included the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce, the Federation for Sustainable Development, Emfuleni Ratepayers Association, OUTA, New Horison Movement, Vaal Environmental Justice Association and academic water experts. The standard of presentations by the various groups and individuals told a tragic tale of a disaster created by lack of investment in infrastructure. These presentations ranged from highly emotional to technical. The Emfuleni Mayor talked about the challenges facing the local council. He did not participate in the joint government presentation and had to be slotted into the proceedings on the first day as he was heading overseas.
The Department of Water and Sanitation, Gauteng Province (COGTA), Emfuleni Local Council and Rand Water made a joint presentation. There was nothing new. The presentation lacked critical information such as starting and completion dates. There seemed to be no sense of urgency in developing an emergency plan to deal with the current pollution.
Sebokeng WWTP by contractors’ employees. This occurred when Emfuleni shut down the construction project known as Module 6, due to lack of funds. This resulted in the Sebokeng plant being closed and created a major source of ongoing, shocking pollution of the Rietspruit.
A further R17 million is required to repair/replace the pump station system. Only R5 million of this amount has been received thus far.
R100 million has apparently been secured by the Department of Housing to cater for sanitation services to some 1000 new houses. These funds are supposed to be used to increase capacity at Leeukuil but there was no mention as to whether the R100 million would cover the full cost of the connections and capacity increases required.
Gauteng COGTA (responsible for Emfuleni Local Council’s turn-around strategy and partial administration of the council) is either playing cards close to its chest or the department doesn’t have any concrete plans apart from what is in the SRSS design plan. There are no funds for this R5 billion long term project. The team
advised that application will be made to the R400 billion infrastructure development project recently announced by the President.
SAVE was concerned that the Government team did not address the Rand Water recommendations contained in its monthly reports on the state of the three waste water treatment plants. There appear to be no plans to upgrade existing sewer lines.
The HRC posed many pertinent questions to the team, The Gauteng COGTA DG refused to give a direct response to the question as to whether or not basic human rights had been abused.
There will be a second round of the enquiry in November. Written submissions are required by 30th November 2018. Thereafter the HRC will produce a provisional report.
Progress slow and disappointing
SAVE has been informed that work has been completed on pump station 12. Work has commenced on pump station 4 in Sharpeville.
According to the government presentation at the HRC enquiry, The Vereeniging pump stations are only scheduled for completion in about June 2019. This is unacceptable. Pump Station 12 was repaired within a few weeks. A tender has been issued for the civil work required for repairs to 46 pump stations with a closing date of 19th October 2018. SAVE will be following the outcome of the tender with great interest.
The Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce has made an appeal to ‘look local’. There are many experienced engineers operating in the Vaal Triangle with the required expertise. Emfuleni should give priority to local companiess as it will also help to create employment locally and benefit the Vaal economy.
“Yes it is a crisis Mr. Moiloa”
ETV extra-Nuus (Channel 195), a new DSTV channel, recently visited the Vaal and produced an insert on the shocking pollution. Malcolm Plant and Michael Gaade were interviewed.
The mouth of the Rietspruit at Loch Vaal – October 2018 – not a crisis?
The Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Uhuru Moiloa assured viewers of Nuusdag Perspektief (DSTV Channel 195) that the Vaal River sewage pollution “is not a crisis”.
SAVE member, Viccy Baker, responds to Mr. Uhuru Moiloa’s comment:
“Mr Moiloa confined his remarks to the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) and informed viewers that the Department of Water and Sanitation had granted R35m for Module 6 to be completed by the financial year
end 2018/2019 and that work on Module 7 would start on April 1 2019.
Mr Moiloa omitted to mention the fact that the entire Sebokeng WWTW was shut down due to community labour unrest for over 3 months, earlier this year, seriously damaging the existing modules. Although work has started on recommissioning Modules 3 -5 (Modules 1 and 2 were decommissioned years ago) some 100 million litres of untreated sewage continues to flow into the Rietspruit, a tributary of the Vaal River, daily because these modules needed extensive work to get them operational again.
The MEC made a vague reference to the fact that the ‘technical committees are all in place” and that “all that is needed is for all stakeholders to attend Sedibeng Political Committee meetings which I will be convening’.
Mr Moiloa clearly has his head in the silt if he believes that the completion of Module 6 will alleviate the crisis.
The sewage system in Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM) consists of the following:
• Three Waste Water Treatment Plants: Rietspruit, Sebokeng and Leeuwkuil
• 44 electrically driven pump stations which are necessary to pump sewage from towns to the WWTWs.
• Around 3000 km of sewage pipes which serve part or all of the communities of Boiphatong, Bophelong, Evaton, Sebokeng, Sharpeville, Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging.
Of the three WWTWs, only Leeuwkuil is fully available but is operating at 30% capacity because the pump stations are not pumping sewage to the plant. Rietspruit has two different processes Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) which comprises 66% of the works, and a biofilter system to process the balance. The BNR has been out of commission for 18 months while only about half of the biofilters are operational.
Sebokeng, as mentioned above is allegedly operating at 30% of capacity but staff are struggling to even achieve that due to lack of funds.
In total the WWTWs are only processing approximately 30% of design capacity and the balance is flowing into the river system.
Of the 44 pump stations only about 40% are operational. Some are more than 30 years old. Electrical equipment has been damaged or stolen and many pumps and motors need overhaul or replacing. Each pump station has a sump from which the sewage is pumped and most have an “emergency” dams in the event of there being no electricity or other failure of the pump station. The so-called emergency dams when overflowing run through the storm water drains until they reach the Vaal River.
As innumerable media reports have shown, a vast number of leaks in sewage pipes are bubbling up to the surface in houses, streets, graveyards, playgrounds and schools throughout Emfuleni as the pipes carrying the sewage overflow because they are blocked or damaged and are in dire need of maintenance or
The WWTWs and the pump stations are subject to constant theft and vandalism. Only last week a security guard was killed at Rietspruit WWTW by cable thieves. Many formal and informal houses have been built to the south of Joburg that are not connected to any sewage system at all. The outflow of up to 50 million litres per day of sewage reaches the Rietspruit and subsequently the Vaal River.
As if all this were not enough, Joburg City Council has a contract with Emfuleni to process sewage from the South of Johannesburg which cannot be processed by the Joburg South sewage plant. The contract is worth millions a month to Emfuleni but the money does not go back into maintenance and operation of the system.
On Friday October 12 Mr Moiloa made a presentation to stakeholders inVereeniging regarding COGTA’s ambitious housing plans for the Sedibeng region. Some 3000 serviced stands and some 5000 houses are targeted to be
completed for the 2018/2019 financial year. The question of the provision of water and sewage threatens to bring the mega developments projected, to a standstill. Some contractors are disputing the tender requirements which stipulate that they should provide and pay for the link from the houses to the bulk sewage and water systems. Water Use Licences have not been obtained in some instances. One asks how COGTA can press ahead with vast new developments when the existing sewage infrastructure is in collapse.
Speaking later in the same Nuusdag programme, Dr. Anthony Turton a top SA water expert expressed the opinion that “Government doesn’t have enough money to fix the problem.” This is simply not true. Government – or lack of it – created the problem. Mr Moiloa, in his Budget speech, allocated R569 million to human settlements in Sedibeng for the 2018/2019 year and admitted that in the past his department had “persistently” underspent its budget.
National Department of Water and Sanitation in its Budget Speech allocated R3.5 billion under the Water Services Infrastructure Grant and Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant to municipalities that are in distress and don’t have the necessary resources and capacity to implement projects on their own.
The website MunicipalIQ http://www.municipaliq.co.za states that service delivery protests have reached an all-time high in 2018. For Gauteng Province not to fix the Vaal problem or at the very least put substantial funds behind it would be political suicide especially in the run-up to the 2019 elections”.
Well said Viccy Baker.
DONATIONS TO SAVE THE VAAL ARE NOW TAX DEDUCTIBLE
It’s been a long, hard road to obtain approval for SAVE donors to get tax relief. Chairman, Malcolm Plant, did a sterling and time-consuming job to get final approval for an application that dated back to 2013.
SAVE is most appreciative of the generosity of many people who have contributed to our cause and assisting us to enforce legislation through the courts.
R100 000 from Luciana Country Estate
Luciana Country Estate is worthy of particular mention. Luciana has committed a donation of R100 000 to SAVE and is challenging all other riverfront complexes to do the same. This is in addition to several significant donations received directly from Luciana residents.
SAVE THE VAAL WEBSITE
We know our website functionality leaves much to be desired. We are currently working on a new, user-friendly website that will provide all the latest information to you.
Thanks to Anthony Davies who has sponsored the upgrade for us.