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Rand Water Tackles Wastewater Treatment Issues in Gauteng



The Rand West City local municipality in Gauteng has enlisted the services of Rand Water to assume control of its wastewater treatment plant. This decision was prompted by concerns raised by the Auditor-General of SA (AG), who highlighted the inadequate maintenance of wastewater treatment plants in both the Rand West City municipality and the Tshwane metro as reported by the Sowetan Live. The AG emphasised that such neglect posed risks to public health and the environment, as untreated waste water often seeped into water sources like rivers.

The AG’s report, released last week, drew attention to flaws in the management and maintenance of the Randfontein plant, which serves the municipalities of Westonaria and Randfontein. As a consequence, the municipalities’ ability to deliver clean water to communities and protect the environment was compromised. The AG communicated material irregularities to the municipal managers of both municipalities, underscoring the potential harm to the general public resulting from the discharge of untreated wastewater.

The AG’s warning coincided with efforts by the City of Tshwane and the Department of Health to contain a cholera outbreak that had claimed 24 lives in Hammanskraal, one in Mpumalanga and another in the Free State.

In response, the municipal manager of Rand West City, Thabo Ndlovu, stated that the municipality had taken steps to address the issues at the Randfontein plant. This included hiring Rand Water to oversee maintenance and providing additional training to the workers responsible for on-site operations. Ndlovu emphasised the need to enhance knowledge and capacity concerning the operation of a bio-waste water treatment plant. The arrangement with Rand Water entails a capacity-building program that includes skills transfer as outlined in the agreement.

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Ndlovu also mentioned that the council had recently appointed four process controllers and initiated monthly water sampling. In the near future, an additional 16 process controllers will be added to the staff to enable the municipality to independently manage its wastewater treatment plants.

In 2018, the municipality called for bids to refurbish the Hannes Van Niekerk Water Treatment Plant, a project that has thus far cost the council R70 million. Similarly, the Badirile plant has incurred expenses of R31 million for the municipality. During a visit by Sowetan to the Hannes Van Niekerk plant, it was observed that some structures appeared new but had broken switches, and no workers were present. Several old water structures contained stagnant sewage, and the premises exhibited overgrown grass and signs of vandalism, such as broken windows.

Hullet Hild, the DA caucus leader in the area, revealed that the plant’s pump station was non-functional, resulting in the extensive backwash of sewage into residents’ yards. Communities in areas like Bekkersdal and Randfontein have been grappling with recurring sewage backwashes. Hild attributed this issue to years of neglecting waste treatment plants and a shortage of skilled personnel to operate and maintain the infrastructure. Pump stations are designed to transfer raw sewage into the system and treat it to safe levels before disposal. Malfunctioning pump stations lead to a buildup of sewerage, causing spills. This problem permeates the entire city due to the dysfunctional infrastructure.

Bekkersdal residents expressed their ongoing struggles with overflowing communal sewers, which have persisted for years. Dirty water flooded four houses and flowed onto the street along Nkosi Street, creating a puddle that obstructed pedestrians and motorists on adjacent Panyapanya Street.

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Photo: Facebook / @Sowetan LIVE

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