DATE TO DIARISE:
SAVE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
SATURDAY 7TH NOVEMBER 2020 AT 11:00
AT LUCIANA COUNTRYESTATE LAPA
ALL REQUIERD COVID 19 PROTOCOLS WILL BE OBSERVED.
PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN MASK
UPDATE ON VAAL RIVER POLLUTION
Covid 19 and the lockdown delayed SAVE’s return to the high court but it certainly did not
dampen the ongoing pressure that the committee has been placing on the Minister and
Department of Water and Sanitation both through personal communication with the
Minister’s office via Zoom, correspondence from our attorney and creating pressure
through the media.
It is thanks to this pressure that there have been recent announcements from the
Department of Water and Sanitation about another vague three-year plan.
Raw sewage – a familiar sight in the Rietspruit. Note spillages in the field heading into the river.
Back to Court
The delays in getting tenders advertised for new contractors and lack of action on the
ground are simply not good enough. Our legal team has informed respondents, via their
legal representatives, about the resumption of our ongoing litigation against the Ministers
of Water and Sanitation, Environmental Affairs and Finance, as well as the Gauteng
Premier and MECs of COGTA and Finance to stop pollution of the Vaal River and its
tributaries from the Emfuleni Local Council’s waste water treatment system.
A complex and lengthy process that must be followed which will take some two months
before SAVE is able to file papers with the court and get a court date. The matter will be
placed on the ‘opposed’ roll as there are two opposing affidavits. The ‘opposed roll is a
busy one in the courts. We are following the process as quickly as possible and will not
waiver from our intention to enforce legislation through the court.
The Vaal Intervention Project with ERWAT at the helm has been a failure in meeting the
objective of stopping pollution of the Vaal River. ERWAT’s contribution consisted of
unblocking pipes without effecting repairs to the rest of the system. This resulted in the
predicted increase in sewage pollution in the river. New pipe bursts and rising mains have
added to the problems in the streets of Emfuleni since ERWAT’s departure at the end of
It is concerning that the recent announcements are vague in the extreme.
There are several facets to solving the problem:
• Repairs are required to Emfuleni’s three waste water treatment plants and the
pump station system to ensure that effluent deposited into the river is compliant
with DWS standards.
• Resources and dedicated funds are required to ensure the optimum operation and
maintenance of this ageing system. These resources are not available in the
embattled Emfuleni Local Council.
• Security and protection of the lives of employees and contractors as well as
infrastructure is paramount to ensure ongoing and consistent repair work in the
face of community protests and vandalism.
• Government needs to address the daily Eskom ‘load rotation’ in Emfuleni and the
lack of back-up power for the treatment plants and pump stations.
• A broader, medium/long term plan to increase capacity to cater for the increased
population in the Sedibeng region. This plan, known as the SRSS, was launched
in 2007, relaunched in 2015 and now there’s more talk (but not too much action).
The additional module under construction since 2016 at the Sebokeng treatment
plant is part of this project. It was 97% complete in 2018 when work was brought
to a halt due to lack of funds. The work stoppage a resulted in violent protests
from the community who also vandalised the operational plant which has not
treated sewage since then.
• The Minister and Department of Water and Sanitation have ultimate responsibility
to protect precious raw water resources from pollution. Attention must be given to
the environmental degradation of the Rietspruit and Loch Vaal caused directly by
the Emfuleni sewage pollution. Therefore the Minister must apply her mind as to
how to restore this precious part of the River.
Earlier this year, the Minister of Water and Sanitation relaunched module 6 construction
with a completion date of July/August. Ongoing community protests about jobs prevented
employees and construction workers from entering the plant, thus this module 6 has not
yet been completed. This issue has to be resolved by the politicians in the interests of
all residents of Emfuleni and beyond.
Raw sewage flows to the Vaal River via the stormwater drain alongside Powerville.
Commitment of DWS Minister
Unfortunately, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s drive and good intentions did not translate into
action on the ground. SAVE has maintained constant pressure on the Minister via Zoom
meetings with her office, numerous letters from the SAVE attorney and social media
pressure. Tenders for work packages which should have been advertised in July are still
languishing on someone’s desk at the DWS offices. This at a time when the South African
economy is crying out for infrastructural projects to rebuild the economy and provide jobs.
SAVE has had several presentations from the Vaal Intervention team, starting in October 2019 when we agreed to suspend litigation for six months to give the Vaal Intervention team an opportunity to show progress under the management of ERWAT. SAVE has also received vague monthly reports with no timelines and little concrete information to inspire confidence. The Vaal River and its tributaries, the Rietspruit and Klip Rivers are more polluted than ever. The Veld is gathering ‘lakes’ of raw sewage, notably in Bophelong and in Tshepo, Vereeniging and along Barrage Road, to name a few areas.
Vaal Dam, the source of Gauteng’s water supply is being polluted by raw sewage from the
Metsimaholo Local Council’s waste water treatment plant at Deneysville. This has been
ongoing for some time and has culminated in the staff of the plant digging trenches to get
rid of raw sewage from the dysfunctional plant.
This is not only impacting on water quality in the dam, but raw sewage is running through houses in the Refengotso urban area into a nearby natural tributary and into the Dam. Polluted water also runs across fields and into farm dams and the Taaibosch River. SAVE’s letters to the Free State Authorities and the Metsimaholo Local Council were not answered.
DWS Gauteng was investigating. It’s high time that DWS enforced legislation with non-compliant
municipalities through court orders to send a clear message countrywide that sewage pollution of our precious water resources must be stopped and more attention given to the operation and maintenance of waste water treatment systems.
SAVE has handed over the Vaal Dam matter to our lawyer who awaiting a reply from the
Save’s fund-raising activities had to be cancelled due to the Covid 19 impact.
We are appealing to our members and supporters to dig deep into their pockets and assist us in
our drive to clean up the River. SAVE’s committee members are all unpaid volunteers who have a passion for the River. Please help them to help the entire community to have a healthier, better life with
clean streets and a clean River. Our efforts are in the public interest and therefore need public support for our survival.