Government vs government as water department takes on council over Great Fish River pollution

The Eastern Cape department of water and sanitation is to take legal action against Inxuba Yethemba municipality for polluting the Great Fish River. 
Image: 123RF.

The water and sanitation department (DWS) is taking legal action against the Inxuba Yethemba municipality in the Eastern Cape for allegedly polluting the Great Fish River.

“The waste water treatment works (WWTW) in Cradock is non-functional and all that is done is add some chlorination to the effluent. Some settling of solids occurs in the tanks, but this results in an untreated overflow to the Great Fish River,” the provincial DWS said in a statement.

The department said it had first issued a directive to the Chris Hani district municipality in October 2016 to apply for authorisation for the waste water treatment works and to stop pollution from occurring and to rehabilitate the affected area.

“The [district municipality] submitted an action plan which was not approved as it did not adhere to the requirements of the directive.

“Two more notices were issued mid-2018 to submit an action plan with immediate actions to address the current status of the non-compliance with the WWTW. No response from the district municipality was received,” said the department.

The department said it referred the matter to its compliance, monitoring and enforcement (CME) unit for an application for a court interdict.

“The CME is awaiting outstanding reports to secure a successful application from the Eastern Cape office. The reports are expected on June 26 2019.

“This process indicated above shows that contrary to the general belief that the DWS has been inactive with regard to the pollution, action has been under way primarily as per the prescripts of the Inter-Governmental Relations Framework, as well as allowing for an opportunity to the transgressor to make right,” the department said.

The department said it also dispatched an environmental inspector to Cradock, who found that:

  • The waste water treatment plant has completely shut down. There is not a single municipal employee at the plant and the only people present on site, were two security guards;
  • Waste water continues to flow into the non-functional plant, but is then channelled, untreated, into the Great Fish River;
  • The problems at the plant are mechanical in nature, as most of the pumps and all the brush aerators are dysfunctional; and
  • As a result of the WWTW and pump stations being non-operational, raw sewage is also being discharged at different places along the sewer lines, most notably out of manholes.

“It is further noted that the waste water treatment plant appears to be in this state for a number of weeks now, prior to the recent electricity cuts for non-payment and public unrest.

“Chris Hani has had a poor record of sewage problems in Cradock and DWS has issued notices and directives in the past year,” said the department.




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