Home News Homevale wastewater plant a ’looming disaster’

Homevale wastewater plant a ’looming disaster’

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The DA said it was investigating the dire state of the Homevale wastewater treatment plant following concerns raised regarding an agreement between Sol Plaatje Municipality and a private company for the upkeep and maintenance of the plant.

Sol Plaatje Municipality said that improvements have been made at the Homevale wastewater treatment plant following an agreement with Beefmaster. Picture: Supplied

THE DA said it was probing the dire state of the Homevale wastewater treatment plant, which has fallen into a “state of disrepair”, following concerns raised regarding an agreement between Sol Plaatje Municipality and a private company for the upkeep and maintenance of the plant.

Sol Plaatje Municipality approved a resolution in 2021 to write off R6.5 million in debts owed by Beefmaster in exchange for its assistance in repairing the ailing Homevale wastewater treatment plant.

Beefmaster committed to bring its own security to the site and to clean the area.

DA councillor Chris Whittaker said they conducted an oversight inspection of the plant, where it was noted that one of the clarifiers was covered in reeds and sludge.

“Cable theft on site is also preventing power from reaching the facility. The new plant is barely functional. Grit is not filtered out of the water. Due to mixers not working optimally, nutrients like ammonia are not entirely removed from the effluent. Only one of the two clarifiers is working. Two digesters are not operational, causing treated wastewater to be pumped from the station mixed with untreated effluent, posing significant health risks to the community and the environment. Scum pumps are out of order. Only one of the two screw pumps is working, of which the previous breakdown of both caused sewage build-up along the N12,” said Whittaker.

He added that only 15 megalitres, as opposed to 33 megalitres, were being treated per day.

“The dewatering plant has never been used, despite being five years old. Five brand new skips that were placed at the dewatering plant to help catch solid by-products have also been left to rust.

“In addition to the multitude of problems identified, security at the facility is insufficient, placing millions of rand of assets at risk. There are also only about five staff working per shift, two of whom are provided by the private company. This is in stark contrast to previous years, when 20 people were on duty per shift. There is no doubt that the shortage of staff and lack of expertise contributes to the grim state of the plant.”

Whittaker stated that the facility was a “disaster waiting to happen”.

“The city is already drowning in sewage. It also raises many questions pertaining to the value of the public-private partnership entered into and also its obvious failure to ensure the upkeep and maintenance of the plant.”

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thoko Riet said that when Beefmaster undertook to assist the municipality, the entire wastewater treatment works was completely dysfunctional as 80 percent of the cables were stolen.

“Currently, the 15 megalitre section of the plant is commissioned together with the chlorine building that was also vandalised. Clean water is being pumped to the Langleg pan. These are the achievements from the intervention of the agreement,” said Riet.

She added that the amount of money that was written off is as per the settlement agreement.

“The issue of Beefmaster is unique and emanates from a Kimberley Investment Network Association (KINA) incentive. Therefore there will and can not be a comparison on the issue of Beefmaster and debts owed by other businesses in Kimberley. The then acting municipal manager at the time, Boy Dhluwayo, who is currently the director of infrastructure, has compiled a report for council as far as this matter is concerned.”

Beefmaster chief operations officer Gert Blignaut said that most of the critical repair work had been completed.

“This involved getting a section of the plant that has the capacity to process 15 megalitres of water per day 100 percent operational again. Effluent water running through this segment is now being cleaned and treated effectively,” said Blignaut.

He added that the project created 20 temporary jobs, which were still ongoing.

“The Beefmaster Group provided the labour to fix, repair and replace non-working parts at the plant, including repairs to the chlorination plant as well as the installation of new cabling. We also helped to clear overgrown areas around the plant and keep the property tidy.”

Blignaut stated that local contractors were employed to help complete the repairs, although they did have the necessary skills capacity within the Group.

“We are still waiting for Sol Plaatje Municipality to conclude discussions with us about continuing work at the plant, as we have met our obligations. We sincerely hope that our involvement in this project will ensure that the plant continues to run effectively.”

He was disappointed that the KINA agreement – that included an economic incentive scheme based on more favourable rates that would stand to benefit the entire Kimberley business community – had not been extended.

“This is a major disadvantage to all of Kimberley’s businesses and negatively impacts on the area’s economic growth prospects. It is well known that the Sol Plaatje district does not offer competitively priced tariffs when it comes to rates. We have long maintained that incentivising businesses through better rate tariffs would significantly improve Kimberley’s economic prospects and competitiveness.”

DA councillor Chris Whittaker said the Homevale wastewater treatment plant was a disaster waiting to happen. Picture: Supplied
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