Water, Sewage & Effluent January-February 2017 - Page 13

The area provides a unique habitat for many species of duck and hosts groups of flamingos that have made the dam their home . Fears are that the impact of this level of pollution could destroy the entire food chain in the area , making the river virtually sterile until sufficient rain falls in the upper catchment to flush the system , which will then still take some time to recover .
In addition , the sewage spill comes at a time when South Africa is struggling to come to grips with its worst drought in decades .
However , it is unlikely that anyone will be sanctioned for the potentially catastrophic spill , even as ordinary South Africans face fines and even criminal charges for transgressing local government-imposed water restrictions . This is despite various government entities hastily passing the buck in the immediate aftermath of the spillage .
Water expert Professor Anthony Turton says it is important to understand the complexity as well as the risk of the situation , to engage in a constructive manner in resolving the problem .
“ The facts of the matter are that all sewage works are hydraulically overloaded for a variety of reasons . Johannesburg North is no different . Part of the problem has been rapid urbanisation post 1994 without any planning to upgrade services ,” he says .
“ This will not be fixed overnight . However , another component is related to the illegal connections of gutter downpipes to the sewers . This introduces rainwater during storms that inevitably results in hydraulic overloading . This issue can be dealt with in the short term , so it must be highlighted .”
Return flows complexity
Turton notes that Hartbeespoort Dam is the receiving dam for a number of sewage return flows , and says there is a need to understand this complexity .
“ These return flows are divided into two broad categories . Big wastewater treatment works run by municipalities , such as Percy Stewart in Krugersdorp , the smaller unit at Muldersdrift , and the massive Joburg North works , are the first . These are all overloaded , run down , and in dire need of recapitalisation . This is a municipal function .
“ However , the second category is the many hundreds , maybe even thousands , of package plants owned and managed by body corporates , or managing agents acting on their behalf . This needs a different response because private sector money is involved .”
Here , says Turton , the trigger is the fiduciary responsibilities of the board of trustees , where public pressure must be brought on them to generate a register of risk in which these matters are dealt with .
“ Linked to this is the risk to people living there from drinking water contaminated by sewage . Many of the large sectional title schemes around Harties do not have Rand Water , so they use boreholes contaminated by the dam water . This is a massive and growing risk , especially for pregnant mothers ,” he explains .
“ We need to sensitise the body corporates about this risk , because it is falling outside the formal regulatory framework . This is where the fiduciary responsibility as defined by King III and IV , applicable to all trustees , becomes the vehicle for change . In both cases , we need to improve the quality of effluent return flows and this must be regulated by the Department of Water and Sanitation .”
Turton adds that he is concerned that the Department of Water and Sanitation is so politicised under Minister Nomvula Mokonyane , that it refused to regulate ANC-controlled municipalities in the past , but might now become overzealous with DA-controlled metros . networking tech news environment infrastructure industry municipalities
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