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DA welcomes news Dept taking legal action over Great Fish River

Jun 26, 2019
DA welcomes news Dept taking legal action over Great Fish River

Port Elizabeth - The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said that it is taking legal action to force an Eastern Cape municipality to stop polluting the Great Fish River in the Eastern Cape.

The DWS’ Andrew Lucas, responsible for Water Regulation: Eastern Cape, confirmed that the court action is against the Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality in the Chris Hani District Municipality.

"The Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) at Cradock is non-functional and all that is done is add some chlorination to the effluent," said Sputnik Ratau, Spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation.

"Some settling of solids occurs in the tanks, but these results in an untreated overflow to the Great Fish River. The matter is now being handled at a higher level to resolve the problem.

"The DWS’ Eastern Cape Region first issued a Directive to the Chris Hani DM - Craddock WWTW - in Oct 2016 to apply for authorisation for the WWTW, and to stop pollution from occurring, as well as to rehabilitate the affected area."

He said that the DM submitted an action plan which was not approved as it did not adhere to the requirements of the directive.

"Two more notices were issued in mid-2018 to submit an action plan with immediate actions to address the current status of the non-compliances with the WWTW. No response from the DM was received," Ratau said.

"On the 3rd April 2019, the DWS Eastern Cape region referred the matter to DWS’ Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement (CME) Unit - National Office - for application of a court interdict.

"The CME (National Office) is awaiting outstanding reports to secure a successful application from the EC office. The reports are expected on the 26th June 2019. The full application documents will be with DWS Legal Services by the 28th June 2019 to approach the State Attorneys."

Ratau said that this process indicated above shows that contrary to the general belief that the DWS has been inactive with regard to the pollution, action has been underway primarily as per the prescripts of the Inter-Governmental Relations Framework, as well as allowing for an opportunity to the transgressor to make right.

"The DWS also dispatched an Environmental Inspector who found that: Upon a routine oversight inspection at the WWTW in Cradock (Inxuba Yethemba Municipality) last week, which is managed by the Chris Hani District Municipality:

1. The WWTW has completely shut down. There is not a single municipal employee at the plant and the only people present on site, were two security guards;

2. Waste Water continues to flow into the non-functional plant, but is then channeled, untreated, into the Great Fish River;

3. The problems at the plant are mechanical in nature, as most of the pumps and all the brush aerators are dysfunctional;

4. As a result of the WWTW and pump stations being non-operational, raw sewage is also being discharged at different places along the sewer lines, most notably out of manholes.

"It is further noted that the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTW) appears to be in this state for a number of weeks now, prior to the recent electricity cuts for non-payment and public unrest," Ratau said.

"Chris Hani has had a poor record of sewage problems in Cradock and DWS has issued notices and Directives in the past year for pollution from un-fixed sewer blockages, Failed sewer pump stations and for non-compliance at the WWTW."

Democratic Alliance welcomes action against municipalities for Great Fish River pollution 

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance in the Eastern Cape said that it welcomes the announcement that the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) will be taking legal action to force the Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality and Chris Hani District Municipality to stop polluting the Great Fish River.

"The announcement follows after the Democratic Alliance earlier this month revealed that raw, untreated sewage is flowing directly into the Great Fish River near Cradock, placing the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people at risk," said Retief Odendaal MPL - DA EC Midlands Constituency Leader.

"The discharge of raw sewage into a natural water resource is illegal in terms of the Constitution, the National Environmental Management Act No. 107 of 1998 and the National Water Act No. 36 of 1998.

"What is disconcerting is that DWS acknowledges that they had instructed the Chris Hani District municipality to rectify problems at the Cradock Waste Water Treatment Works as far back as October 2016.

"Clearly nothing has been done since then, in fact the conditions at the plant have been left to deteriorate to the point that it is now completely dysfunctional."

Odendaal said that according to the DWS, the application will be submitted to the state attorneys by the end of the week, "and I will continue to monitor the progress of said application.

"I again call on the DWS to publicly release all data from the water samples taken from the Great Fish," he added.

"That a court order needs to be obtained to prevent a municipality from befouling the drinking water of its own residents is a shocking indictment on the poor state of affairs of municipalities in the Eastern Cape."

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