Wastewater treatment plants lack quality

The Green Drop report released in April paints a bleak picture of wastewater treatment plants in the Sedibeng District Municipality, with one of the local municipalities only scoring 15%. The report, which was commissioned in 2008, sought to determine the quality of wastewater treatment plants in South Africa.

In the Sedibeng district, Lesedi Local Municipality received the highest Green Drop score, which was 55%. Midvaal Local Municipality only scored 15%, while Emfuleni Local Municipality got a zero Green Drop score because it failed to participate.
Lesedi Municipal Manager for Water, Sanitation and Waste, Star Moholobela, said that his municipality scored 55% because “our sewer network is well maintained by qualified personnel and our treatment plants are operated by qualified personnel from East Rand Water Care Company (ERWAT).”
Midvaal Municipality spokesperson Mary Sanderson said: “This score does not actually represent the existing effluent quality. The effluent compliance percentage for the plant was recently measured at 87%.”
Sanderson explained that the report was compiled in April 2009 and since then Midvaal has taken various steps to improve their treatment plants.
According to Stanley Gaba, Emfuleni Municipal spokesperson, Emfuleni is acting in close collaboration with Water Affairs. “Although we have not been assessed yet, we are working closely with Water Affairs to ensure that we will be ready, come the time of assessment.”
The report would suggest that treatment plants in cities fare better than their rural counterparts because the latter suffer from aging infrastructure, lack of funding and skills shortages.
Sanderson from Midvaal agreed with this view. She admitted that the treatment plant in Meyerton is running at full capacity and needs to be expanded.
“Skilled staff is a matter of concern. This is one of the main reasons why Midvaal is utilising private service providers,” added Sanderson.
While “funding always remains a matter of concern” R5 million was made available by Water Affairs for upgrading and R80 million has been earmarked as a grant for the Meyerton plant.
Moholobela said that lack of funding for infrastructure is not an issue in Lesedi. Also, the Department of Water Affairs has launched a training programme for treatment plant operators, which should address the skills shortage.
Gaba admitted that pump station 8 in Emfuleni suffers from overloading and “old age” but it will be replaced “to alleviate the existing spillages from the old infrastructure”.
Process controllers at Emfuleni’s treatment plants are participating in a training and skills development programme run by Rand Water and the Department of Water Affairs, said Gaba.
According to the Green Drop report, wastewater treatment performance was generally poor in South Africa and was considered to be “far from acceptable”.
Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica expressed concern by the Green Drop report’s findings. “We are committed to doing all within our power to ensure a turnaround in the general state of the wastewater treatment plants in our country,” she said.

News source: Mooivaal Media – Vaalweekblad