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Parliament convinced lack of investment to blame for Vaal River contamination

Parliament convinced lack of investment to blame for Vaal River contamination.
Parliament convinced lack of investment to blame for Vaal River contamination.
Image: 123RF/Andriy Popov

Parliament’s portfolio committee on water and sanitation is “convinced that the lack of investment in maintenance of the sewage infrastructure” by the Sedibeng District and Emfuleni municipalities has led to the crumbling infrastructure and contamination of the Vaal River System.

That is what they said in a media statement on Sunday after they visited the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Plant. They found some units were overloaded‚ because others were dysfunctional.

Times Select reported earlier this month that an unprecedented ecological disaster was unfolding in large stretches of the river‚ which is the main source of water for some of South Africa’s best farmland.

Raw sewage has been flowing into the river from pump stations in the Emfuleni Municipality on the northern bank of the river‚ killing thousands of fish.

The disaster is unfolding in the midst of the ambitious R1-billion Sedibeng Regional Sewer Scheme‚ announced in 2015 by then water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

It is a rule of the Department of Cooperative Governance’s Back to Basics programme that municipalities must spend 10% of their budgets on maintenance.

“While the Committee supports the building of new units‚ it has emphasised that the old units must be maintained to ensure optimal utilisation of the entire plant.”

Committee chairperson Mlungisi Johnson said: “The other social and economic impact the municipality faces as a result of the delay is that due to the spillage into the river system‚ the amount of money it spends on purifying the water increases astronomically‚ which affects the municipal finances negatively.”

The committee is worried about municipalities using old infrastructure despite increasing populations and development placing greater demand on the systems and not recycling water.

Johnson added: “Currently municipalities treat water and release it into the river system. With a limited investment‚ a small plant can be installed at waste water plants that will ensure that the water is redirected back into the system.”

The committee has requested monthly reports on the interventions by government to ensure the problem is fixed.

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