Sinesipho Schrieber
4 minute read
16 Mar 2021
10:57 am

Tshwane polluted rivers ‘costly’ to farmers

Sinesipho Schrieber

Earlier this month, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) started an investigation into several polluted rivers in Tshwane.

Irrigation dam with polluted water. Picture: Supplied

Residents staying near polluted rivers in Pretoria have been suffering from the unbearable stench and polluted borehole water.

Farmer Theunis Vogel, who lives next to the Apies river, said polluted river water allegedly contaminated his irrigation dam and borehole, costing him millions.

“I live just next to the river and the stench is unbearable and throughout the years it has affected the borehole water. The water from the river spilt into my irrigation dam and also on my crops leaving them damaged and I had to cut them out,” he said.

ALSO READ: Concerns raised over unrelenting pollution of the Vaal River

He said he first noticed the pollution of the river back in 2005, but the issue became unbearable in 2011.

During this time, the department of water and sanitation declared the Apies river a disaster zone when it suffered significant of water pollution.

Located near the Rooiwal sewage works, the river faced pollution issues when the sewage works had overflow issues.

“The metro tried to resolve this and things got better during those years. We were able to see our crops coming out fine but from 2015, the problem started again and nothing has been done since.”

Vogel said the pollution of the rivers as a result of lack of maintenance by the metro.

“The sad part is that the river provides water to the people of Hammanskraal and farmers. There are even dead fish coming from the river.”

Pretoria resident who lives near the Walkerspruit river, Astrid van Wyk, also blamed a lack of maintenance.

“Sometimes we clean the river ourselves but it is in such a bad state and we wish the metro could do something about it. The sewage and dirt that is in the Walkerspruit goes into the Apies river and also contributes to the pollution of that river.”

Local ward councillor Shaun Wilkerson at times conducts community clean-up at the river.

ALSO READ: SAHRC findings warn that Vaal River may be damaged ‘beyond repair’

Earlier this month, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) started an investigation into several polluted rivers in Tshwane.

The commission held a one-day inquiry into allegations of continuous spilling of sludge and raw sewage into the Pienaars river and the Roodeplaat river from the metro’s Baviaanspoort wastewater treatment facility.

Buang Jones of SAHRC Gauteng office said it was to investigated other rivers that were flagged during the commission such as the Apies river and Hennops river and release a report after six months.

During the inquiry, Jones said the department of water and sanitation’s leniency with the metro (which it admitted) intensified the problem in the region.

“The situation has deteriorated quite drastically since we last visited in 2019,” he said.

“We have received complaints from business forums, farmers and residents. It requires the urgent attention of the metro and government.”

The department of water and sanitation approached the courts to force the metro to clean up reported sewage sludge and solid waste flowing into the Pienaars river in the north of Pretoria.

The court case was postponed to 26 April.

ALSO READ: Water and sanitation dept takes Tshwane metro to court over river pollution

“We felt the metro was dragging its feet in dealing with pollution at the river,” said the department’s spokesperson Sputnik Ratau.

Tshwane utility services MMC Phillip Nel said the contamination of borehole issue was currently a legal matter and it would not be able to comment.

Previously, Nel said the metro was aware of the issue of pollutants in the Pienaars river and the Roodeplaat dam and was working to resolve the issue.

He said the problem should be resolved with the re-commissioning of the Baviaanspoort treatment works in May 2021.

“One of the biological reactors on the Baviaanspoort wastewater treatment works was decommissioned due to leakage, causing the loss of purification capacity at the plant. The loss of treatment capacity is the primary cause of pollution within the Pienaars river, also polluting the Roodeplaat dam.”

He said the metro approved a project under the 2020/21 financial year budget to repair the Baviaanspoort works.

ALSO READ: Farmers welcome Tshwane metro loan scheme

“It also includes upgrading of some electrical and mechanical equipment that needed replacement. A contractor had been appointed, which is currently busy upgrading the wastewater treatment works at a tender value of R41-million.”

During the inquiry, Nel said that the metro faced financial constraints and needed the department’s assistance in dealing with the issue.

This article was republished from Rekord with permission 

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