Department is worsening drought by ignoring pollution being dumped into Apies river

By Leon Basson MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation:

This week, the DA’s visit to the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works north of Pretoria showed that every day an alarming 104.8 million litres of untreated sewage flows out of Rooiwal into fresh water and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is doing absolutely nothing to stop this, despite a plethora of prior calls from communities and the DA.

Not only is the country suffering from a far-reaching drought, but government’s inability to act urgently to eradicate sewage spills, is worsening the effects of the drought.

Untreated effluent flows into the Apies River and due to the non-functioning of the sludge plant at Rooiwal, sewage sludge is pumped straight onto an adjacent farmland that drains into a large wetland.

In July this year the DWS said that its Enforcement Unit had issued a directive in terms of section 19 of the National Water Act, 36 of 1998, to the Tshwane Metro to urgently address the spillages at Rooiwal.

DWS also indicated that the City of Tshwane would send the DWS an action plan within seven days of an on-site inspection on July 23rd.

However, six months later there has been no noticeable improvement and according to a parliamentary reply received two weeks ago the DWS is “awaiting an action plan from the City of Tshwane which will be monitored.”

The inaction is even more confounding given that four years ago in March 2011 the DWS also issued a directive to compel the Tshwane Metro to take corrective measures to address the Rooiwal’s pollution of the Apies River.

The Metro is clearly unable to manage the Treatment Works and the DA calls on the Department to task Rand Water with operating and maintaining Rooiwal.

The DWS should also appoint an independent environmental consultant to do an assessment of the damage to the river, groundwater and property. The polluter must pay principle must be enforced to compel the Metro to rehabilitate the river and compensate the affected farmers and plot owners.

Rooiwal has become a symbol of the ANC government’s mismanagement of our water infrastructure and its unwillingness to crack down on polluters.

The DWS dubbed November “enforcement month” and undertook to heighten, amongst others, “raids on polluters.”

Unsurprisingly the DWS failed to mention that the state is currently the biggest polluter of water in South Africa, with 4 billion litres of untreated or partially treated sewage spilling into our rivers each day from overstrained or non-functioning municipal waste water treatment plants.

Section 151(1)(i) of the National Water Act, states that no person may unlawfully and intentionally or negligently commit any act or omission which pollutes or is likely to  pollute a water resource. The DA in Gauteng has already laid charges against the Tshwane Municipal Manager.

With the local government elections approaching, Minister Mokonyane – also the ANC’s head of elections – cannot afford to expose Tshwane Metro’s mismanagement, even if it comes at the expense of the health and wellbeing of South Africans.

The DA will continue to fight for every South Africa’s inalienable right to clean water and a healthy environment.