Not one Water Service Authority in Eastern Cape meets Green Drop standard

Issued by Vicky Knoetze, MPL
Shadow MEC for COGTA

The Department of Water and Sanitation has revealed that not one of the 14 Water Service Authorities (WSA) in the Eastern Cape qualified for green drop certification.

The latest Green Grop report revealed that the overall provincial risk ratio has regressed from 66.7% (medium risk) in 2013 to 72.3% (high risk) in 2021. The risk assessment is based on an audit of the 14 WSA delivering wastewater services through a sewer network consisting of 123 wastewater treatment works and 425 pumping stations.

Of the 14 WSA reviewed, only OR Tambo and Ndlambe municipalities improved on their scores, while the other 12 all regressed. Ten municipalities, which account for 48 wastewater systems, scored lower than the minimum benchmark of 31%, which means that these systems are to be placed under regulatory surveillance and that these municipalities will be required to ring-fence water services grant allocations to address shortcomings.

The Democratic Alliance has been raising concerns regarding the failing wastewater treatment facilities across the province as well as the lack of adequate monitoring. We will be monitoring the situation as part of our Eastern Cape Water Watch initiative.

The report estimates that at least R654 million is needed to restore existing treatment works and a further R138 million per annum per WSA for maintenance.

The report notes that the highest risks were at the treatment level and pointed to wastewater treatment works that exceeded their design capacity, dysfunctional processes and equipment, especially disinfection, lack of flow monitoring and effluent and sludge non-compliance.

The three worst performers in the province were:

  • Sundays River Valley Municipality – 2021 Green Drop Score – 0% (All four plants with a score of less than 31%).
  • Koukamma Municipality – 2021 Green Drop Score – 1% (All 12 plants with a score of less than 31%).
  • Makana Municipality – 2021 Green Drop Score – 9% (All three plants with a score of less than 31%).

The report further indicates an unsatisfactory sampling and analysis regime, which is extremely concerning as compliance monitoring is a legal requirement and the only way to monitor the performance of treatment facilities.

Of particular concern is that 22 directives for non-compliance have been issued to 11 municipalities, six to Koukamma, four to Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM), and three to Amathole District Municipality.

In 2021, the DA laid criminal charges against the Municipal Manager in the CHDM after responses to PAIA Applications indicated that there is widespread non-compliance in terms of directives and pre-directives issues by the Department of Water and Sanitation.

The PAIA application further revealed that at least eight freshwater rivers, including the Fish River and its tributaries, are being polluted by raw sewage.

The ongoing collapse of WWTW facilities across the CHDM results in raw sewage spills polluting the environment and numerous freshwater sources.

The DA will be submitting questions to the MEC of COGTA, Xolile Nqatha, to request feedback on what provincial interventions are being considered to address the 48 wastewater treatment systems that have been flagged as critical risk.

Ultimately, there must be a renewed focus in the province on repairing and maintaining wastewater treatment systems. Money earmarked for wastewater infrastructure must be allocated to the restoration and maintenance of these essential systems to ensure that the health and safety of our communities are sustained.