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.