Marizka Coetzer
Journalist
2 minute read
21 Feb 2022
7:20 am

SA dams, rivers pretty from far and far from pretty

Marizka Coetzer

Raw sewage flowing into water is a leading cause of nutrients for the algal blooms.

The water at Wemmer Pan in Johannesburg, 15 February 2022. The Pan is extremely polluted and gives off a pungent smell due to amongst other things it being deluged with raw sewage and industrial waste. Picture: Neil McCartney

Pretty from far, but far from pretty: many of SA dams and rivers are choked with water hyacinth, algal blooms and have dangerously high E. coli levels, brought about by sewage flowing into the country’s natural water systems.

The Hartbeespoort Dam in the North West has had long running problems with algal blooms; the Roodeplaat Dam in Pretoria was overgrown with water hyacinth; while the Wemmer Pan lake in Joburg was found to be infested with sewage and litter.

All three dams have dangerous levels of E. coli, as does the Vaal Dam, where Gauteng sources most of its water from.

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Across the country, the Ntshingwayo Dam near Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal had a very high cyanobacteria health risk, as did the Gariep in the Free State, Spitskop in the Northern Cape and Voëlvlei Dam in the Western Cape, among others.

Raw sewage flowing into water is a leading cause of nutrients for the algal blooms.

Last year, the Olifantsfontein water treatment plant in Ekurhuleni was shut down temporarily for pre-testing for biofilter plant commissioning.

Hennops Revival founder Tarryn Johnston said since the closure in October, they have not had much feedback except there were delays due to the festive season closure and the plant was still not compliant.

Kimberley also had its own “sewage lake”, which the public protector’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said was investigated. It was found to be the result of an ageing and collapsing bulk sewerage network.

“According to premier Zamani Saul, the network will require an estimated R5 billion to overhaul,” he said.

“At least one life has reportedly been lost when the drivers of a delivery van and a truck travelling in the area lost control of their vehicles and plunged into the cesspool in two road accidents.”

– marizkac@citizen.co.za

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