Widespread contamination of freshwater sources in the Eastern Cape

Issued by Vicky Knoetze, MPL
Shadow MEC for COGTA

The provincial government has failed to hold local municipalities, which are guilty of contaminating freshwater sources with raw sewage, to account.

It has become abundantly clear that the ANC leadership in this province will rather do nothing, while the people they serve are placed directly in harm’s way through contaminated water sources, than act against their own incompetent cadres.

Responses to written questions from the Democratic Alliance COGTA MEC, Xolile Nqatha, revealed widespread incidences of sewage contaminating our water sources.

MEC Nqatha revealed a total of 38 Pump Stations, Collector systems and Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) had been issued with notices and directives for non-compliance by the National Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).

Asked if his Department had been monitoring the implementation and recommendations written by the DWS, he said it had not.

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In 2021, the DA laid criminal charges against the MM in the CHDM after responses to Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) Applications indicated widespread non-compliance in directives and pre-directives issues by the DWS.

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

The ongoing collapse of Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) facilities across the Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) continues to result in raw sewage spills polluting the environment and numerous freshwater sources.

The DA is appealing to COGTA to invoke section 19 of the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) in terms of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) Schedule B of National COGTA, based on EC COGTA and Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) recommendations, to ensure enforcement of notices and directives in terms of non-compliance by EC local and district municipalities.

The purpose of re-allocation of such MIG funding is to ensure that such grant funding is spent on addressing the reason for non-compliance.

Ultimately, there must be a renewed focus in the province on repairing and maintaining waste water treatment systems. The Green Drop Report which was released a few weeks ago estimates that a budget of at least R 654 million will be needed to restore existing treatments works in terms of their design capacity and functionality, and a further R 138 million per annum per water services authority for maintenance.

It is critical that money earmarked for wastewater infrastructure is allocated to the restoration and maintenance of these essential systems to ensure that the health and safety of our communities are sustained.