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ActionSA is concerned that the management of wastewater across the country and in particular in the Eastern Cape is woefully inadequate and that this poses major health, environmental and economic risks to the people of this province.
After assessing the wastewater treatment scenarios in Nelson Mandela Bay, Makhanda and Buffalo City, which are all faced with a crisis in regard to effective and efficient wastewater treatment, we have chosen Buffalo City as an example as there are already live court judgements related to its abysmal effluent management and the evidence of dysfunction and maladministration is clear to see.
Having visited many of the 15 wastewater treatment sites and uncontrolled outflow sites, one can only describe the situation as chaotic, if not catastrophic. Council documentation confirms that 12 of the 15 sites are non-compliant and all the prescribed deadlines to rectify this are missed with extensions continuously being approved by council.
This is a classic case of sweeping the problem under the proverbial carpet at the expense of the environment and a potential health catastrophe with the possibility of outbreaks of archaic diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and hepatitis.
The primary reason for noncompliance and not meeting deadlines is carelessness, lack of prioritisation of funding, non-existent management and accountability, lack of effective maintenance, deficient asset management, vandalism and infrastructure theft.
The status quo, apart from posing obvious health risks, stifles economic growth, job creation and the building of desperately needed new housing as there is inadequate sewer capacity for any new developments.
The environment is being severely compromised by sewerage leaks because some of the sewerage infrastructure is a hundred years old and even new sewers are inadequately managed. Some of the older systems use outdated purpose-built overflow systems that are designed to cope during flooding but are discharging raw effluent daily into streams and rivers due to being under-capacitated.
Buffalo City is a coastal metro with tourism and sport tourism being a major economic driver and sewerage contamination of the ocean is terminal for this sector, yet it seems from our first-hand visits, experience and studying of court orders and council documentation that these consequences are of scant regard to the powers that be.
This is why ActionSA is going to take legal action against this municipality to force them to meet the legal and statutory requirements- not to mention their own by-laws because the evidence at hand implies that there is wilful noncompliance by the Buffalo City Metro.
It is regrettable that such action needs to be taken, but it is clear that this administration needs to be forced to do what it ordinarily should be doing as a self-respecting administration that puts the interests of its citizens and environment first.
Issued by ActionSA Eastern Cape Chairperson Athol Trollip