Home News Residents threaten action over burning sludge

Residents threaten action over burning sludge


Community members have threatened to call in the Green Scorpions if the burning sludge that has been seeping from the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Plant for the past two weeks is not resolved as a matter of urgency.

File image. Picture: Danie van der Lith

COMMUNITY members have threatened to call in the Green Scorpions if the burning sludge that has been seeping from the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Plant for the past two weeks is not resolved as a matter of urgency.

Secretary of the Homevale Community Development Forum, Fernando Visagie, said they had called off plans to camp outside the Sol Plaatje municipal offices from Sunday evening after the mayor agreed to conduct a site inspection on Sunday.

“While we would like to solve the problem amicably, residents are outraged because they can no longer tolerate the stench. If the problem is not resolved in the next 72 hours, we will camp out in tents on the lawn in front of the civic centre until the problem is fixed.”

He added that the foul fumes were spreading over Roodepan, West End, Homelite, Colville, Homevale and down Barkly Road.

“This is an environmental disaster in the making. It is a massive concern that water is seeping through the perimeter fencing. During the site visit it was apparent that the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) is malfunctional. The pumps are not working and sludge is leaking everywhere, resulting in pools of raw sewage accumulating. The mayor and municipal officials promised to resolve the matter this week. However up until today, the sludge is still burning.”

Visagie indicated that there were no attempts to extinguish the burning sludge.

“Portions of the reeds caught fire while the area underneath the plant is smouldering. The flamingos are leaving Kamfers Dam because the fires are disturbing the ecosystem.”

Residents complained that the smoke was causing them to experience headaches while it was also aggravating the condition of asthma sufferers and those who relied on oxygen.

“The municipality needs to come up with a more permanent solution. We are suffering during the day while at night it gets worse.”

They added that they were unable to open their windows for ventilation.

“We are not able to sleep because we have difficulty breathing.”

DA NCOP member, Delmaine Christians, said the fire was threatening the health of residents in Homestead and surrounding areas.

“Numerous residents are complaining that their asthma and sinuses have flared up, with some even battling to breathe, given the putrid stench that is coming from the burning sewerage works. This is even more disturbing, given that preliminary research has found Covid-19 particles to be present in sewage. This is alarming given the airborne nature of Covid-19 particles and fears that particles may be further distributed by the smoke.”

She said that DA councillors, Cliffie Lewis and Wesley van Rooyen, had accompanied the mayor Patrick Mabilo on a site inspection to the plant on Sunday,

“It was established that it is indeed the reeds, as well as the sludge, that is burning. This is particularly worrisome given that a number of sludge fires in the past have caused significant air pollution and distress to residents for prolonged periods of time. In 2016, the sludge burnt continuously for weeks before the municipality managed to get the smoke under control and residents have in the past had to make alternative sleeping arrangements because of the severity of the smoke that is caused by sludge fires.”

Christians called upon the municipality to prioritise the health of residents staying in close proximity to the plant.

“Long term measures must be taken to prevent the recurrence of burning sludge in the future. It is no secret that the sewerage plant has been largely non-operational and that there is a dire lack of maintenance at the plant. This has undoubtedly aggravated the situation that if tackled earlier might have prevented the situation from spiralling out of control.”

Spokesperson for Sol Plaatje municipality, Thoko Riet, said the executive mayor Patrick Mabilo, along with the acting executive director for infrastructure and services and the acting city engineer, addressed the community representatives on Sunday.

“We believe that they understood the situation and appreciated the efforts we are making as the municipality to resolve the matter.

“It is a very difficult situation since the burning material is located within the Kamfers Dam area and is close to the water.”

She explained that the municipality would attempt to divert the wastewater effluent from the HWWTP by opening shallow trenches at the site to extinguish the burning material.

“It was discovered that the burning matter consists mainly of vegetation and the roots of the reeds, not necessarily wastewater sludge.”

Riet believed that a veld fire was started by members of the public outside the premises of the HWWTP.

“The area is highly combustible as it is dry and there is an accumulation of dry roots and debris that serves to fuel the fire. The prevailing winds also creates an environment that is conducive to spreading the flames.

“The fire spread to the sludge, reeds and other debris. This has happened at the water works plant as well. Community members need to be discouraged from this behaviour as it has fa- reaching implications.”

She added that an excavator was not able to access the smoking area as it was situated close to the railway track.

“Although the fire is outside municipal premises it is important to take all possible efforts to resolve it.

“Access to the area prevented the municipality from implementing any efforts to stop the smoke. Access will be gained with the use of machinery in order to try to douse off the sewage effluent water from the plant.”