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The Delmas waste water treatment plant is at a standstill while hyacinth spreads at an alarming rate

Bronkhorstspruit Catchment Management Forum calls on farmers to help with the rearing of superbugs.

Concerned members of the Bronkhorstspruit Catchment Management Forum (BCMF) recently requested an oversight meeting to determine progress in the construction of the new wastewater treatment plant in Delmas.

As a member of the BCMF, Paddy Waller told Streeknuus he requested the oversight visit and meeting to monitor, get insight into the progress and establish an estimated time of completion on the project.

Delegates who attended were Waller and Gerrie Venter from BCMF, representatives from the Department of Water and Sanitation and some of the contractors involved in building the new treatment plant.

According to Weller, they invited the Victor Khanye Municipality to join them, but no representative showed up for the oversight meeting held on March 14.

The development of this new state-of-the-art plant began two years ago.

“It is, however, behind schedule due primarily to unexpected groundwater issues,” Waller explained.

“Progress is visible but at a very slow pace and the new estimated date of completion of the project is in the middle of 2025.”

Streeknuus asked Waller about the state of the current treatment plant of Delmas.

“It is completely dysfunctional even after spending an amount of R16m in 2022/23 on repairs,” he responded.

According to Waller, the Delmas treatment plant in its current state breaches the National Water Act and environmental legislation and continues to pollute the river and catchment area.

“The BCMF and the South African Human Rights Commission laid charges against the municipality.

Sewage effluent is visible in a stream which leads to the Bronkhorstspruit River.

“Yet another great concern of the BCMF is that the municipality fails to inform us of their plans to address this, as the old dysfunctional plant will still operate in tandem with the new one. ”

It is a fact that the spillage of untreated sewage from the non-functional Delmas plant contributes to the pollution and rapidly growing hyacinth invasion of the Bronkhorstspruit River. (As reported in Streeknews on many previous occasions.)

Waller, a resident living around the Bronkhorstspruit Dam, said he joined the BCMF when he became aware of the environmental disaster facing the Upper Olifants Catchment area, which includes dams and rivers.

Waller told Streeknuus they discovered hyacinth on the Bronkhorstspruit Dam in 2022 and that concerned members of the community and the BCMF at the time immediately began removing the hyacinth from the dam.

The plant grew and spread so fast that they could not keep up with the removal.

Construction of the new Delmas WWTP is progressing at a very slow pace.

“River flooding has also increased the amount of hyacinth in the dam, but the key issue is that growth is abnormally high due to the high levels of nutrients in the water.

“It makes controlling the plant almost impossible without government involvement due to the high cost of controlling it.”

Gerrie Venter told Streeknuus the spreading of planthoppers or so-called superbugs (Megamelus Scutellaris) has been introduced to the Bronkhorstspruit River in the Delmas catchment area in an attempt to stop the rapid spread of the hyacinth. (Streeknuus, March 1).

According to Venter, the BCMF hopes to introduce it to more farms in the higher catchment areas closer to Delmas. Waller runs the BHS Biocontrol Programme at the Bronkhorstspruit Dam.

“We have nine superbug rearing stations around the dam at supportive estates and released 220 000 superbugs this season. We rear two agents, the Megamelus Scutellaris (planthopper) and the Neochitnia Eichorniae (weevil).

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“The challenge with biocontrol is an extensive number of agents needs to be released during September and November each year to reach population density in December.

“This then enables the agents to significantly impact the health condition of the hyacinth and cause a reduction of between 50% and 90% of the total amount of hyacinth covering the dam.”

“We desperately need farmers to establish agent-rearing stations and assist the BCMF by releasing agents in the river upstream towards Delmas,” said Venter.

“Joining forces with our farmers and the community upstream is one way we hope to combat the spread before it lands in the Bronkhorstspruit Dam.”

Venter requested farmers to contact the BCMF to get more details about establishing tunnels on such farms. The BCMF will provide the superbugs and give sufficient training on the release of these superbugs.

“We have to control hyacinth in the rivers, not just the dams, as part of the integrated hyacinth management programme,” Waller added.

According to Waller, the BCMF takes regular water samples at the Delmas treatment plant discharge point, the Delmar Wetland. The results show the plant discharge levels have and do not meet regulatory requirements.

“This is proof of the severe pollution of the Bronkhorstspruit Dam and adjacent wetlands. The real problem is the poor quality of water of which the hyacinth is just a consequence. If we do not address it, there is little hope for the future and control costs will continue to escalate.”

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