The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is taking legal action to force an Eastern Cape municipality to stop polluting the Great Fish River, it said on Monday.
DWS’ Andrew Lucas, responsible for water regulation in the Eastern Cape, said in a statement that legal action was being taken against the Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality in the Chris Hani District Municipality.
Lucas said the Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) at Craddock was non-functional, and all that was done to treat the effluent was chlorination. Despite this, "some settling of solids occurred in the tanks" and untreated sewage continued to flow into the Great Fish River.
The DWS’ Eastern Cape Region first issued a directive to the Chris Hani District Municipality for its Craddock WWTW in October 2016 to apply for authorisation for the WWTW, and to stop pollution from occurring, as well as to rehabilitate the affected area.
The municipality submitted an action plan that was not approved as it did not adhere to the requirements of the directive, said Lucas.
"Two more notices were issued in mid-2018 to submit an action plan, with immediate actions to address the current status of the non-compliances with the WWTW. No response was received," said Lucas.
In early April, the Eastern Cape's DWS office referred the matter to the department's national compliance, monitoring and enforcement (CME) unit for application of a court interdict.
"The CME office is awaiting outstanding reports to secure a successful application from the Eastern Cape office. The reports are expected on June 26, 2019. The full application documents will be with DWS legal services by June 28, 2019 to approach the state attorneys," said Lucas.
DWS also dispatched an environmental inspector who - during a routine oversight inspection at the Craddock WWTW - found that:
- The WWTW has completely shut-down. There was not a single municipal employee at the plant, the only people present were two security guards;
- Waste water continued to flow into the non-functional plant but was then channeled, untreated, into the Great Fish River;
- The problems at the plant were mechanical in nature, as most of the pumps and all the brush aerators were dysfunctional;
- As a result of the WWTW and pump stations being non-operational, raw sewage was being discharged at different places along the sewer lines, most notably out of manholes.
"It is further noted that the WWTW appears [to have been] in this state for a number of weeks now, prior to the recent electricity cuts for non-payment and public unrest," said Lucas.
He said Chris Hani District Municipality had a poor record of sewage problems in Craddock. DWS had issued notices and directives in the past year for pollution from un-fixed sewer blockages, failed sewer pump stations and non-compliance at the WWTW.