Residents of Hammanskraal and surrounding areas are facing a health crisis as fears that raw sewage sludge, from the malfunctioning Rooiwal water treatment plant, is making its way into the Apies River.

The plant, which is north of Tshwane, reportedly receives volumes far greater than it can handle.

According to Janho Engelbrecht, DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Environmental Affairs, workers at the plant are by-passing the system, as a temporary solution, and pumping sewage sludge onto an open plain as the plant can no longer handle the load.

“If it were to function as it should, the plant would shut down completely,” he says.

Irrigation and drinking water contaminated

This method of handling the sewage sludge build up is not sustainable and the malfunction has seen sewage running into the Apies River which feeds the Themba Dam that provides Hammanskraal with drinking water.

“Apart from this, the water is also used for irrigation by farmers bordering the river.  Vegetables irrigated with this water pose a future health hazard when consumed,” notes Engelbrecht.

According to DA Tshwane Ward 96 Councillor Hannes Coetzee, earlier this week an E. coli count of water in the river was conducted with levels found to be dangerously high.

Immediate contingency plans

Engelbrecht says water tankers must be brought into these areas as a matter of urgency to prevent E.coli infection.

“The area where the sludge is pumped to should have a lining installed to prevent contamination of ground water and a retaining wall must be erected around the open plain immediately to prevent further raw sewage from contaminating the Apies River,” he explains.

Engelbrecht says the DA will be opening a case against Tshwane City Manager, Jason Ngobeni, for violating section 151 (i)(j) of the National Water Act.

“We will also be pursuing this matter with the Blue Scorpions,” he adds.

“The Rooiwal water treatment plant must be upgraded and maintained so as to ensure resident’s lives are not placed in danger in the future,” concludes Engelbrecht.