Community News

TCLM Responds to Graskop Wastewater Treatment Plant

Michele du Plessis

In the previous edition of GPS News, an article highlighted the problems with the Graskop Wastewater Treatment Plant (GWWTP). It also featured the response from Komatiland Ecotourism and the Graskop Ratepayers Association (GRPA).

In the article, the following is quoted from a report: “The entire plant is a safety hazard, from the effluent to the mechanical part. The water is pumped untreated into the Mac Mac River, which flows into the Sabie River, on its way to Hazyview and the Kruger National Park.” Forest Falls and Mac Pools are tourist destinations, locals visit these sites and rural communities use this water for drinking, washing, food preparation. Nearby towns are all very likely to contract some of these health hazards.

Themba Sibiya, Thaba Chweu Local Municipality Spokesperson responded to GPS News questions. When asked for how long the problem has been going on, TCLM stated that the problem started around February / March 2019.

GRPA: Even if we were to ignore all other available evidence that the problems predate February 2019, just by TCLM’s own admittance in the following response, the above commentary would at the very least point to fabrication.

TCLM was asked what was done about the problem.

TCLM: “The process of appointing emergency contractors was undertaken over a year ago, but delays were experienced. However, it is being expedited and should be concluded this, week and repairs commencing early next week,” Themba Sibiya said.

GRPA:  If the problems, (according to TCLM in the first response above), only date back to February 2019/ March 2019, then why were emergency contractors appointed over a year ago? TCLM’s official statements prove to be flawed with inconsistency.

“Partially in line with their complaints to TCLM; tenders were issued, (as per Tender Bid Bulletin Notice 54 of 2019), that are largely unattended, principally because their scope of work cannot address the myriad problems at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, (WWTP). There is debatable evidence of irregular, fruitless and wasteful spending.” (Response from GRPA)

Has the tenders e.g. Chlorination System Servicing at WTW or Water Sampling Testing been awarded? TCLM stated that: “The chlorination system has been repaired and is functioning.”

GRPA: G Johnson confirms that he visited and signed the register at the WWTP on Friday 23rd August 2019 to follow up the inspection visit of the 8th. “It is true that Chlorine gas bottles are installed. However, the two gentlemen that accompanied me around the plant were unable to comment on questions concerning the functioning of the Chlorination System, nor the Water Sample Testing. It would appear that no able-bodied employee regarding the system, nor its procedures are present at the plant. As mentioned in the previous article no official response to our enquiries had been received. To date, (Saturday 24th August), I still await an official response.”

Chris de Beer, Komatiland Eco-tourism Manager, said that Komatiland is in the process of erecting signs warning people about the health hazards of the water. “SAFCOL Ecotourism has ordered signage that warns people about the polluted water and not to swim or drink – the boards will all be erected at Forest Falls which is used by the public,” Chris said. (Response from Komatiland)

GPS News asked what can be done to repair the state of the river.

TCLM stated that “The disinfection is part of that process and the Municipality has to ensure that the components that are not functioning are fixed speedily and that is what we intend doing very soon.”

GRPA: “According to photographs taken during the site inspection, the process of rectification has not progressed at any speed worth meriting. Other than the recently installed gas bottles there is little evidence to believe that in over a year, (according to TCLM), that the process of rectification is being attended at all. Figuratively speaking, TCLM’s attention to the WWTP, amounts to placing plasters onto severed limbs and then dousing the wounds in iodine. TCLM’s above comment contains little more than weak spin.”

Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (IUCMA) – Annual Performance Plan 2019/20, Page B3 (18): “Water resource pollution, especially sewage leaking/spilling into the water resources, causes a serious health risk to South Africa and sharing states, Mozambique and Swaziland; Issues of concern, some of which need law enforcement include: Discharge of non-compliant effluent from non-functional sewage treatment facilities.”

Rural communities use river water. Did TCLM warn them not to use this water as it is a health hazard?

TCLM stated that “With chlorination currently taking place, we are confident the risk of E-coli is averted. But the repair of other defective components must be done soon.”

GRPA: “More spin. Even if the doubtful claim that “the risk of E-coli is averted”, from the Plant, TCLM continues to avoid the issue at hand. Within the Wastewater System’s short fallings there is additional contamination at ancillary points to the Plant. These should have been addressed, (within Tender Bulletin Notice 54 of 2019).”

“Contact was made with Mr S Manqele, Director of Technical Services, Thaba Chweu Municipality, who indicated that two contractors had been recruited to sort out the problem at the sewer this week. According to concerned community members in Graskop, the sewer system has not been fully operational for more than 8 years.” (Komatiland response, Ed. 144)

GPS News asked when this problem will be corrected.

TCLM replied: “Once an appointment has been made and the contractor is on-site, he will provide the Municipality with a programme with specific time frames to complete the work as identified.”

GRPA: “According to TCLM’s own commentary, “The process of appointing emergency contractors was undertaken over a year ago, but delays were experienced.” TCLM’s commentary is vague and non-committal. At best it is largely unsubstantiated and amounts to feeble spin.”

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