DWS expands technical team to respond to Cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal

22nd May 2023 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on Monday said it is working with the national and provincial departments of Health, as well as the City of Tshwane, to assist with water quality investigations from source, taps and stationary tanks in some households to identify the causes of the Cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal.

Extending its scope of the prior existing technical team of experts in water services and regulations, the DWS is working on an integrated model to address the current outbreak.

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu, in a statement on Monday, said that the Hammanskraal community under the City of Tshwane metropolitan municipality has been experiencing unreliable and poor-quality potable water supply for an extended period, despite the upgrade of the Temba water treatment plant to a capacity of 120 megalitres a day.

“The poor water quality is caused by the failure of the Rooiwal wastewater treatment works to meet the desirable final effluent quality for discharge to the Apies river, which, in turn, flows into the Leeukraal dam. The wastewater treatment works is situated upstream of Hammanskraal and has affected the Leeukraal dam, where the Temba water treatment works abstracts water for treatment and distribution to residents as potable drinking water,” he said.

According to Mchunu, the DWS has been continuously carrying out water quality tests at the Temba water treatment works and at water distribution points in Hammanskraal, with the latest tests indicating that the drinking water quality from the Temba water treatment works does not meet minimum drinking water quality.

“The water quality challenges are therefore, in central Hammanskraal, from water supplied by the city.”

As immediate action, Mchunu deployed Deputy Ministers David Mahlobo and Judith Tshabalala and senior managers of the department to work with the Gauteng MEC for Health to ensure that work is being carried out effectively.

The Minister will be meeting with Tshwane Mayor Councillor Cilliers Brink before May 26, 2023, with the aim of agreeing on the action plan with timeframes, which the technical team would have developed over and above the current intervention support.

Besides others, the action plan will address how the City of Tshwane will rehabilitate and upgrade the Rooiwal wastewater treatment works to the required production of drinking water quality standards. A joint task team between the department and the city will then be re-affirmed to oversee the works with continuous reporting to the Minister.

Over the past few years, the DWS instituted a series of enforcement directives and compliance requirements against the city to deal with the pollution from the Rooiwal wastewater treatment works into the Apies river and Leeukraal dam.

“After the city failed to respond to the department’s directives, a legal process was instituted against the city by the DWS, with the aim of obtaining a court order to force the city to address the failure of the Rooiwal wastewater treatment works. This legal process is currently underway and to date, the city has opposed the legal action,” he explained, adding that the DWS also directed the city to stop supplying water from the Temba water treatment plant to residents of Hammanskraal for human consumption.

“The city is currently providing potable water to affected communities that were initially supplied by the Temba water treatment plant, through deployment of water tankers.”

Mchunu further commented that the city had rejected recommendations made by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in its 2021 report ‘Gauteng Provincial Inquiry into the Sewage Pollution of the City of Tshwane’s Rivers and the Roodeplaat Dam’, which recommended that the nationalgovernment should take over the water and sanitation function of the city in terms of section 139 (7) of the Constitution, section 63 of the Water Services Act, 1997, and section 19 of the National Water Act 1998.

The department engaged with National Treasury for funding for the intervention recommended by the SAHRC, but National Treasury indicated that the city had already been provided with funding for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Rooiwal wastewater treatment works, through its Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) allocations.

“Consequently, the department is pursuing legal action against the city for a court order to force the city to use its USDG allocations to rehabilitate and upgrade the Rooiwal wastewater treatment works,” the Minister said.

The technical team will further extend the intensive assessment of the various water supply systems from the Magalies and Rand Water Boards to confirm the current drinking quality standards.

The department recently confirmed that the dual water systems supplied by Magalies and Rand Water meet the drinking water quality standards, as per the South African National Standards 241.