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NewsGMM continues to contribute to drinking water contamination

GMM continues to contribute to drinking water contamination
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Govan Mbeki Municipality continues to pump and spill raw sewage into the water systems around the municipal area.

This is despite the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) findings that GMM is violating the residents Human Rights.

In December 2019, the SAHRC released a damning report regarding the state of 3 municipalities in Mpumalanga province. The three municipalities are Nkomazi, Lekwa and Govan Mbeki Municipalities.

Govan Mbeki Municipality is continuing with the same practices that landed them in hot water at the SAHRC. The SAHRC report had clear guidelines and directives that GMM had to take to rectify the pollution problem.

The raw sewage spilling from the pump station in Evander, situated between Rhodes street and Aahrus road, is just one very good example of this. This pump station had, over the past few years, been the cause of numerous spills in the municipal area. Residents are complaining about the strong stench that emanates from the spillage.

Evander Pump station. DA Cllr Mariaan Chamberlain explains what is the latest

The latest problem is that there is no pump and that GMM allows the sewage to flow unabated into the nearby stream. This has been ongoing since 2020.

The stream flows past eMbalenhle on its way to the Vaal dam where all the drinking water for GMM are sourced. The stream flows into the Vaal River near Villiers. Streams and rivers from Bethal flow into the Vaal River before the Grootdraai dam, contaminating the system from there.

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Other spillages are also ongoing, and the smell will remind you of the seriousness thereof.

The Bulletin wrote to the SAHRC regarding the report.

Unfortunately, we found that although the SAHRC addressed the complaints and that they made recommendations it is not able to force GMM to implement the recommendations and instructions.

The first complaints were made in 2012 regarding sewage spillages in GMM. The complaints that the SAHRC responded to was made on 10 February 2016, 11 October 2016 and 10 July 2018. Similar complaints were received against Govan Mbeki Municipality in April 2012 and May 2013

The Bulletin enquired about the reason for the long delay in responding to the complaints. SAHRC answered as follows: The SAHRC responds to complaints as soon as they are received. In instances where issues raised seem to be systemic, and warrant an enquiry, reference to all or most of them is made to show the linkages and justify the investigative methodology as well as any costs implications. Note also that the systemic challenges complained of related to many more municipalities in the province other than Govan Mbeki, Lekwa and Nkomazi municipalities. These three municipalities were sampled. Complainants interact with the SAHRC processes immediately and throughout the process.”

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Sewer flowing into the water system in Evander

The question of feedback was raised by The Bulletin to the SAHRC to which they replied that “All Municipalities have submitted at least one feedback report. In the feedback reports submitted, they merely re-iterate the submissions made at the hearing. In the case of Lekwa, the same plan of action was submitted. Evidence on the ground however suggests that little progress has been made in resolving the identified challenges, however.”

The replies by Mr Eric Mokonyama, Mpumalanga Provincial Manager SAHRC, indicates that the three municipalities did not regard the report from the SAHRC as important.

“Despite so many formal complaints with the SAHRC and the Department of Water and Sanitation on sewer spillages in Govan Mbeki and Lekwa Municipalities nothing is changing. Instead, it is getting worse and worse,” said DA Cllr James Masango, “The sewer spillages flowing out of the resident’s houses into the streets of Embalenhle started in 2008 in Govan Mbeki Municipality after the Provincial Government declare and celebrated the Mpumalanga as a bucket free province. That was during Thabang Makwetla as the Premier.”

“The DA complained so much to the municipality and escalated the problem to the provincial government, but it was all in vain. In 2012 we wrote to the SAHRC to intervene. In Lekwa municipality, it has been the same especially at Rooikopen.” James continued, “I also reported the matter to SAHRC to intervene. We had site inspections with the HRC member in Lekwa at WWTP and pump station. There were reports produced and communicated with recommendations. The Department of Water and Sanitation was also roped in to assist. But they couldn’t assist at all.”

“All along the residents of Lekwa and Govan Mbeki Municipalities have been and remain exposed to a health hazard. I personally on behalf of the DA and Lekwa residents, opened a case in this regard.”

The following questions posed by the Bulletin show how low the municipalities rate the SAHRC.

  1. What progress have been made by these municipalities regarding the directives? “Very little progress has been made in most municipalities.”
  2. Have the time frames been kept to? “No”
  3. Have all the new developments been halted as per directive? “No”
  4. Did the SAHRC receive any sanitation master plans? “No”
  5. Did the SAHRC receive any time bound remediation plans as per directive 14.1.4.4.11? “Yes but it was a re-iteration of what was submitted at the inquiry.”
  6. Did the municipalities provide council resolutions reflecting such Agendas? “No”.
  7. Did the SAHRC receive plans for the regular and routine pre-emptive maintenance of their sewer systems? “No”.
  8. Did the SAHRC receive any reports from the Department of Water and Sanitation regarding their monitoring of the quality of the effluent emitted into the water systems? “No”

The report from the SAHRC paints a very bleak picture about the spillages in our municipalities. Unfortunately, no municipality regards the spillages as serious enough to address.

Sewage spillages are in every town within Govan Mbeki Municipality. From Bethal all the way to Leandra. Small leaks are attended to at an ad hoc basis it would seem.

The non-maintenance of the sewer network throughout GMM has resulted in many blockages and breakdowns.

Theft of equipment is not attended to for very long periods of time such as the small pump station in Kinross next to the old Golf course dam. Sewage had been spilling for more than a year from that pump station. In Dorfan street the sewer has been rerouted to the stormwater system.

Bethal dam can only be described as a sewer dam as raw sewage had been flowing into the dam from both sides. Most pump stations are not pumping in Bethal to either a breakdown at the pump station or sewer lines that need fixing.

“Unfortunately, the SAHRC have no teeth to bite. Parliament needs to come up with an amendment that will ensure that the recommendations of the SAHRC are bidding. Failure by parliament, we then need a ruling from the court.” Concluded James, “The sewer spillages have become life as usual in this municipality, and it must come to an end.”

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GMM continues to contribute to drinking water contamination

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