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Sol faces R10m sewage fine


The directive was signed January 20, 2020 and followed an earlier site inspection by the department at Ravel and Von Webber streets in Roodepan

THE SOL Plaatje Municipality has been ordered by the provincial Department of Environment and Nature Conservation to immediately address the sewage spills in Roodepan or face a fine of R10 million.

The municipality was issued with the directive by the HOD of the department, Boipelo Mashobao, after the local authority failed to comply with its duty of care to manage environmental degradation resulting in 15 houses in Roodepan becoming flooded with raw sewage.

The directive was signed January 20, 2020 and followed an earlier site inspection by the department at Ravel and Von Webber streets in Roodepan.

Following the site inspections, the directive was issued to Thami Mabija, in his capacity as the acting municipal manager of the Sol Plaatje Municipality, for failing to comply with the National Environment Management Act.

The directive states that the municipality’s operations near and around the site are in contravention of the act which states that: “Every person who causes, has caused or may cause significant pollution or degradation to the environment must take reasonable measures to prevent such pollution or degradation from occurring, continuing or recurring, or, in so far as such harm to the environment is authorised by law or cannot reasonably be avoided or stopped, to minimise or rectify such pollution or degradation to the environment.”

The act states further that: “No person may dispose of waste, or knowingly or negligently cause or permit waste to be disposed of, in or on any land, water body or at any facility unless the disposal of that waste is authorised by law, or dispose of waste in a manner that is likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to health and well-being.”

During the site inspection, conducted by the department’s officials, it was stated that in two houses in Ravel Street there was evidence of sewage water along the sides of the houses.

“Further investigations were conducted at von Webber Street, where a sewage pump station, which appeared to be out of commission, was found.

“Sewage water was observed running out of the pump station into the adjacent land, where it flowed into a brick inlet/outlet, leading to a dam.”

Sewage water was also found being disposed of in the veld adjacent to the dam and pump station.

Interviews with residents in Ravel Street revealed that one resident had a problem with sewage water filling her backyard for the last 10 years.

The EMI (Environmental Management Inspectorate) reports that there was a pervasive sewage smell in the house and even in the heat of the day the windows were closed due to the nuisance caused by flies attracted by the sewage smell and ambient environment.

One resident informed the team that due to the persistent water presence, her house was forever damp, as it was consistently under water.

She also mentioned that the adjacent dam, where the municipality dumped the sewage, sometimes overflowed into their yards, adding further strain and, when it rained, the dam collected stormwater which then pushed additional sewage water into her house.

The resident alleged that her furniture had also been damaged because of the consistent sewage overflow into her house.

Another resident in the same road confirmed that the situation dated back for many years with no help from the Sol Plaatje Municipality. Her interior and exterior walls had been affected by the constant water and the structural integrity of the house was compromised.

This resident was forced to move out with her premature newborn baby to her mother due to the stench and the flies.

Stagnant pools of water were also evident at other houses and one resident indicated that her son had developed sores on his feet due to the untreated sewage water in their yard.

Cattle were found drinking at the unfenced dam, where the municipality was disposing of the raw sewage from the pump station.

A blocked manhole to the west of the comer of Ravel and Von Webber streets appeared, according to the EMI, to be contributing to the backed-up line.

“Having considered the information contained herein and the situation found on site, I would like to inform you that I am exercising my powers in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, to issue you with a directive to comply with the provisions of the law,” the directive states.

In terms of the directive, the municipality has been ordered to immediately initiate a consultative forum with the residents of Ravel and Von Webber streets, and to meet weekly with the residents.

The minutes of the engagements must be forwarded to the department every Monday until the final rehabilitation plans have been approved.

The municipality has also been ordered to drain all the waste-water in the houses in Von Webber and Ravel streets and to conduct by-weekly inspections of the properties to ensure that no new disposals are being experienced. The inspections report must be submitted to the department weekly (Monday and Friday).

Water samples must also be taken from the affected properties and tested at an accredited laboratory.

Based on the soil contamination report, a rehabilitation plan of the properties must be compiled, including the removal of the topsoil and contaminated vegetation and the replacement of the topsoil with appropriate aggregate.

Properties affected by the standing water must also be identified by the municipality and their structural integrity be assessed to determine the extent of the damage to the house’s foundations and walls.

This report must be sent to an independent accredited structural engineer for peer review prior to submission to the department within one month.

The municipality has further been directed to unblock the manhole and to conduct daily inspections to ensure that there are no blockages.

The motor/generator at the Von Webber pump station must be replaced and security measures put in place to secure it against theft and vandalism.

The municipality has also been ordered to immediately stop the disposal of any untreated sewage water either to the land or to the adjacent dam.

Water samples must be taken of the dam, tested and sent to the department.

Sol Plaatje must also immediately start the process of draining the sewage water in the dam and to dispose of it at the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Works, as well as put measures in place to protect the inhabitants of Ravel and Von Webber streets from stormwater breaking over the walls of the dam.

It also has to fence and secure the dam.

In terms of the act, any person who fails to comply with a directive can be fined up to R10 million or be imprisoned for a period not exceeding 10 years.

The department can also recover costs for reasonable measures undertaken to remedy the situation from both the municipal manager and the municipality.

A written appeal can be directed to the MEC for Environment and Nature Conservation, Nomandla Bloem, within 30 calendar days of receipt of the directive.

“Irrespective of the appeal you may make to the MEC, you must comply with this directive within the period stated unless the MEC agrees to suspend or vary this directive.”

The Sol Plaatje Municipality did not respond to requests for comment by the time of going to press.

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