Vaal sewage stations 'overloaded and very old'

The recurring spillage of sewage into the Vaal River is a result of the over-utilisation of outdated infrastructure, the Emfuleni municipality said on Tuesday.

“The municipality issued tenders to fix the pump stations in November last year,” said spokesperson Aviva Manqa, who did not know whether the tenders had been awarded.

“I don’t know where they are in the process,” he said.

The pump stations for which the municipality is responsible are “overloaded, very old and need to be upgraded”.

However, an amount of R40-million has been budgeted for infrastructure upgrading, not only for the pumps.

Manqa was reacting to a report in a Johannesburg daily newspaper that three environmental organisations are threatening legal action.

According to Beeld, the Save the Vaal Environment, the Eco-Care-Trust and the River Owners’ Property Association want to take municipal managers, the premier and the minister of water affairs and forestry to court.

‘Impractical’

Rand Water spokesperson Karl Lubout described the story as “impractical”.

“I have been in the industry for more than 20 years, and court is not where the battles need to be fought.”

For a number of years, the effects of urbanisation and development have contributed to the spillages. “It has got to do with capacity.”

Under normal conditions, spillages would not occur. However, property owners direct their storm water into the sewerage system and it cannot cope with the volume of water.

“Also, the rain has turned this into an abnormal situation and, compounded with urbanisation and the infrastructure, there are going to be spillages. Sometimes maintenance goes to pot, too. The sewerage works haven’t been upgraded as they should have been. A lot of upgrading needs to be done,” Lubout said.

Manqa added that it is possible that the capacity of infrastructure is not in line with recent development in the area.

“It has grown so much, and the infrastructure is so old, that it cannot contain the demands on it.”

He said Emfuleni is responsible for providing sewerage infrastructure for about 1,2-million people in the Loch Vaal area, Louisrus, Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging, Boipatong, Sebokeng, Roshnee, Rust-en-Vaal and Sharpeville.

“It is the whole of the former Vaal Triangle.”

Resorts

Manqa said further impact on the compromised infrastructure is that “we have a whole lot of resorts in the area, along the river”.

This infrastructure has to cope with a seasonal influx of people over holidays and weekends.

“The area is a destination for tourists and, of course, it is in our interests to ensure that the river water is clean.”

The council, together with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, has put in place systems to deal with effluent spillage, Manqa said.

The Beeld report said the environmental groups are going to act because the spillages “were a crime against the people and the environment”.

The Constitution promises a clean and healthy environment, but since last year there have been at least 38 spillages of sewage into the river.

Some of it was raw, or half-processed, the report said.—Sapa

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