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Tag: Hammanskraal

Tshwane’s Sewage Disaster Destroys Crops

Theuns Vogel, a 68 year old farmer in the Tswane district, was hoping that his vegetable farm on the banks of the Apies River would be his retirement plan.  Due to raw sewage that has been flowing unchecked from the collapsed Rooiwal wastewater treatment plant, Vogel’s wheat crops have failed.

“The collapse of the Rooiwal plant has totally destroyed the agricultural network in the area,” he said. “North of Pretoria, the Apies River is all raw sewage.”

Vogel was speaking to reporters a week after the SA Human Rights Commission heard submissions from desperate residents of Tshwane regarding the near-collapse of the city’s wastewater treatment infrastructure. Vogel has been farming in the area for nearly 18 years, and is one of six farmers who’s water is supplied directly from the Rooiwal plant.  Tests conducted by hydrologist Johan van der Waals, have shown an E. coli count of 520,000 parts per 100ml.   This is truly alarming considering that the accepted standard demands that there should be no detectable E. coli in drinking water.

Untreated sludge have however been spreading onto farms in the area due to heavy rain.  The sewage water has also leached into the groundwater of the area.  The City of Tshwane will be heading to court as the department of water and sanitation vowed that it would go the legal route to force the repairs of the plant.  Vogel and other farmers in the area now forced to get their drinking water from five water tankiers sent out by the city on a daily basis.  Another 40 tankers are used to supply the residents of Hammanskraal, where they have been unable to drink tapwater for nearly 10 years.

“It must be costing them billions,” said Vogel. “Why don’t they use that money to fix the plants?”

Dewatering the excess sewage sludge is an important part of the treatment process in which the water in the sludge is squeezed out in a belt press and filtered while the solid matter is fed into a hopper. The collapse of the Rooiwal plant has totally destroyed the agricultural network in the area and contaminated the ground water.  According to Vogel, only three of the 10 belt presses are still in working order, and raw sludge is simply dumped into the river.  Usually, the sludge would be spread in a sacrificial land (large open area), where it is dried and turned into manure.  The sacrificial land of the Rooiwal plant spanned 50 ha.

“So the guy downstream is receiving all of this.  The land can’t handle any more, it’s saturated,” said van der Waals.

It could take up to 10 years to rehabilitate the land if the city follows an extensive recovery program.  Leaving the land to recover on its own however, could take close to a 100 years.

The city’s serious water pollution problem is also being felt at the Roodeplaat Dam, where a combination of raw sewage flowing into the dam from the Pienaars River and spreading invasive water hyacinths have all but made the dam unusable as either a water supply or for recreation.  Kobus Fell, who owns a resort at the dam, claims that 45% of the dam is already covered with hyacinths.  Fell estimated as much of 50,000 tonnes of plants could soon be rotting at the bottom of the dam, which will further degrade the quality of water.


“On the 460ha dam that means more than 200ha is covered.  It’s horrific. With all those decaying plants, the water is being degraded.”

Officials of the Water and sanitation department visited Fell at the Roodeplaat dam last week where he presented a plan to clean up the dam using a combination of manual removal and aerial spraying of herbicides where workers could not reach the plants. If the programme was maintained through the winter,  few plants would remain to reproduce and cover the dam. According to Sputnik Ratau, the spokesperson for the department, they are swamped with proposals.  Ratau however insisted that the prescribed process must be followed, or they would “fall foul of the water act”.  According to the prescribed processes, the proposed solutions must first be proven effective before being implemented.

Another young boy drowns in flooded trench in Hammanskraal

Another family in Hammanskraal are reeling in shock after their son drowned in a flooded trench left unattended by a contractor hired by the City of Tshwane.  The death of Tshiamo Hleza, 9, was reported in the wake of the fatalities of three boys who drowned while swimming in a trench on Saturday in the township.

Tshiamo Hleza

The latest tragic incident took place on Monday at about 10am in Extension 10, when two boys were washing their hands with water from the trench and slipped inside.  One of them was luckily rescued by resident Buti Mkhabela, who lives a stone’s throw from the scene.

The survivor was rushed to a local hospital, where he was admitted for medical treatment.  Mkhabela ran to the trench upon hearing someone screaming for help.  “The one who survived was struggling to get out of the water when I got there.

“The one who died was trapped in mud inside the trench, and it was difficult to reach out to him. When I got there the one who is in hospital was trying hard to rescue his friend,” he said.

The emergency services personnel who were called in arrived quickly, and certified one of the children dead.  Hleza’s husband Sonnyboy Malaka, who was also visibly grief-stricken, said his wife had been in bed since she received news of the death of her son.

Malaka was away when his son left home, accompanied by one of the local boys.  His sister Dimakatso Hleza said the family was told about the incident soon after it happened, and she went to the scene.

However, she said, her mother was too weak to go there and was still unable to speak about it.

“We are deeply hurt by the death of my brother. Maybe if they had filled the trench on time my brother would still be alive.

“Maybe if they had put up danger barriers the children would not have fallen into the trench,” said Dimakatso.

She remembered her younger brother, who was in Grade 3, as a quiet person and said he was fond of dancing.

“He wanted to be a musician. He liked marimba music too much,” she said.

Mayor Randall Williams blamed an external contractor who was working on a housing project for the City, saying legal action would be taken against those responsible.

“Upon arrival at the scene it was discovered that the site had not been adequately secured, nor were there barriers in place.

“I consider this to be negligence on the contractor’s part as it is clear the contractor did not take the necessary precautions to ensure that there was adequate access control to the site,” Williams said.

He expressed his deepest condolences to the affected family for their tragic loss.

“Words cannot convey the sadness and grief which they must be feeling at the loss of this young boy. May peace and comfort find them,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, MMC for Community Safety and Emergency Services, Karen Meyer, said she had written to Acting Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo requesting answers on the alleged faulty equipment used at the drowning incident on Saturday.

“This comes following allegations by the community that the Gauteng Provincial Ambulance Service, which were the first to arrive on the scene, showed up with defective equipment,” Meyer said.

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