POLLUTION IN JUKSKEI AND HENNOPS RIVER WITH A POTENTIAL TO IMPACT TO THE HARTBEESPORT DAM
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) notes with great concern incomplete and in some instances inaccurate media reports on the states of the Hartbeesport Dam with regards to pollution. The reports presented lack the scientific evidence to support the allegation and it’s full of inaccuracies in so far as the source of the pollutions is concern. Indeed there was and still there is sewer spillage in the Juskei River and the Hennops River. Both the two River are the Tributaries of the Crocodile River which feeds into the Hartbeesport Dam, however this is far from being called a contaminated Dam as some reports seems to suggest. Yes certain portion of the dam, especially the Crocodile River entrance has been polluted which resulted in some fishes dying. The real cause for fish kill is still being investigated. Water quality results collected shows increased levels of bacterial counts, chemical oxygen demand, phosphate and Nitrate which possesses medium to high risk for any contact water sport which is not recommended in urban streams- not only in Hartbeesport Dam but any other urban areas. However there is lower risk for other non-contact sporting activities. No effect has been noted for drinking water quality supplied from Hartbeesport dam and Brits Water Treatment plant operated and maintained by Madibeng Local Municipality. Regulatory compliance results submitted for month of July – September shows 85 -90 % compliance on Chemical analysis and 99.9 % on Microbiological analysis. Rand water is being used for intensive or risk based monitoring by Madibeng Local Municipality- and preliminary results show no worrying trend at this stage. It is also important to note that a Hartbeesport Dam area is also supplied by Water from Rand Water; therefore there is no immediate risk for drinking water contamination in around Hartbeesport Dam.
The spillage took place in an outfall sewer line in the middle of the Leeukop Prison, the Northern Waste Water Treatment works- in Jukskei River, the Olifantsfontein Waste Water treatment and the Sunderland ridge Waste water treatment works in the Hennops River. Except the Leewkop Prison-which is an exceptional case-and was a major incident, the Sunderland Ridge, Olifantsfontein and the Johannesburg Northern works are waste water treatment works which are regulated under the National Water Act, Act 36 of 1998 by the Department. All these plants have water use authorisations to treat and discharge effluent to those rivers within prescribes standards detailed in those authorisations. With any waste water treatment works, there are times when there are challenges in terms of mechanical and electrical failures or certain unit process failures and that has been the case in Olifantsfontein and Sunderland Ridge Waste water treatment works. The incident which was also abnormal happened in The Northern Waste Water treatment works late last year and during the beginning of summer rains this year.
It is also important to note that these spillages did not happen at the same time. The Department became aware of the Leeukop Prison on 8 September 2016 and as part of its regulatory function engage the City of Johannesburg and Johannesburg Water to fix the problem which was and is still an enormous task due to the size and the extent of the outfall sewer lines. The work involve sewer network jetting, bucket cleaning of the lines, taking out foreign materials (debris, sand, racks etc.) to ensure free flow of the sewer line. This are materials which normally are not suppose to be in sewer lines. This outfall sewer line collects sewer from the Inner City of Johannesburg via Bruma Lake and Alexander to Northern works and join with other lines from Midrand at leeukop prison where the blockages and spillages are taking place. With the problems persisting the CoJ and JW was directed by the Department on 25 October 2016 to ensure speedy resolution of the problems. As a result additional resources in terms of the contract with bigger capacity and complex technology to bypass certain portions of the lines with pumps have been deployed and are currently working 24/7 to ensure a complete stop on this problem, while at the same time trying to minimise the spillages into the river. Since then the spillage has been drastically reduced by still taking place.
In Northern Waste Water Treatment works, the Department noted the first discharge late 2015. The spillage which was caused by lot of rain coupled with the fact that Johannesburg water was busy desilting one of its emergency storage dam, with the purpose of increasing the capacity and ensuring that it is properly lined to protect ground water. The matter was also brought to the Department by the concern groups living along the Jukskei up until the confluence with Crocodile. At the time a detailed Action plan was drawn up together with the affected communities for activities to be undertaken to ensure proper operations of the plant, while the emergency dam upgrades continues. These were short, medium and long terms plans. A technical working group comprising of the communities under Armour Action Group, the Jukskei Catchment Management forum, the Department, CoJ and JW was formed to monitor progress. There was no spillage for the better part of 2016; however there were technical challenges with the desilting and lining of the dams which took more than anticipated. Some of the problems would have been managed better and as a result the Department directed the COJ and JW to complete the project speedily to avoid further spillages, since we were again approaching the summer rains. Unfortunately due to contractual disputes, the project did not proceed as planned. The city has since them refurbish the head of works, built a new pumping station to pump from emergency storage Dam to avoid spillages and appointed contractors for retrofitting some of the works. Most of the works is anticipated to be finished by the latest March 2017 or earlier depending on additional capacity the contractors will bring. However with regard to progress made to date in respect of Dam 01 and the status of the dam it can be stated that the dam has been drained and is in the process of being cleaned of sludge with an overall progress at 93%. Further to the above, operational challenges that may contribute to spillages have been identified and are being addressed to improve operational efficiency at the works. Framework contracts are in place to address electro-mechanical equipment which includes gearbox, pump and valve since June 2015. This is assisting to retain the works treatment capacity at 405 Ml/day
On-going communication both at the working group level (once a month) and broader community quarterly took place from then to date. The working group included representatives from the Jukskei River Forum. Community representatives (under Armour Group) were organising those meetings the first one was in November 2015 and the last one this year was on 19 November. It appears that stakeholders living in and around the Hardbeesport Dam were not invited and as results-they could not get the details of the challenges, the government task team comprising of CoT, CoJ, DWS and JW under the leadership of Madibeng municipality will engage with the communities living in and around Hartbeesport Dam. This was an oversight from all participants and the organisers which are regretted since communities of Hartbeeport Dam and Madibeng only get distorted news through the media, and this will soon be corrected. The IGR met with the Hartbeesport Dam Tourison Association on 12 November 2016 and is planning to meet others in the coming weeks.
In Sunderland ridge waste water treatment plant, which is managed and operated by the City of Tshwane, the main problems was cable theft, followed by delayed implementation of maintenance to non-performance of some contractors. Cable theft coupled with some O&M challenges had a huge blow on a fairly new plant. The operations of the works rely on the functioning of a well maintained electrical system. The criminal activities started around May 2016 with a section of the cable stolen and escalated to vandalism of the motor control centres (MCC) rooms. The electrical panels completely stripped, including bus bars. The repair work required was extensive and involved not only cable replacement but panel rewiring and replacement of bus bars. A lot of the panels were so badly damaged that they required resetting and re-programming. Specialist companies and in some instances original equipment manufacturers (OEM) were called to get system systems back to operability. Spare parts were also not readily available at times, prolonging repair time. The repair work necessary to get modules 4 and 5 took more than a month due to the afore-stated reasons.
The Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department has intensified security efforts to deal with cable theft. The operation has yielded results since inception. To augment existing guard services, additional measures such as electronic monitoring are being investigated.
With the delayed implementation of the O&M activities which resulted in partially treated effluent being discharged into the Hennops River, the Department has directed the CoT to speedily resolve the O&M issued and this was communicated in a meeting with the Acting City Manager followed by a Directive. The Department still awaits a short terms action plan to resolve those O&M issues.
With the ERWAT Olifantsfontein Waste Water Treatment works, the main issues were mainly O&M of the plant coupled with neglect of operational rules which made the plant to operate at 80% efficiency rather that the required 100%. ERWAT was directed to correct most of the O&M issues and ensure 100% efficiency. Work is already underway and there is some noticeable improvement, however more work is still required. The biggest challenges in the Hennops River are the diffuse pollution emanating from Tembisa and Ivory park areas. The Department directed City of Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg improve efforts to dress this.
It is important to notes municipalities always engage in long term planning, to ensure that plans are in place to cater for future developments. Johannesburg water is already planning an outfall sewer at Laseria areas which will take out most of the pump station problematic pumpstation which at times is contributing to pollution. The City of Tshwane has recently upgraded the Sunderland ridge from 65 Megalitres per days to 95 ML/day; this will further reduce the risk.
With the debris, litter etc. which has come to the dam together with the first summer rains, the Department is looking at resuscitating the Metsi-ame Programme or an improved version it. However the contributing municipality especially the metros will have to contribute significantly under the polluter pays principle to the funding of the programme. Already discussions are underway with the metros in this regards. The first IGR meeting between the affected municipalities (CoJ, JW, CoT, Madibeng and DWS) took place on 12 November 2016 at Hartbeeport. Ekurhuleni, Randfontein, Mogale City and ERWAT need to farm part of the next IGR meeting.
The Department will continue with its Regulatory Role as mandated by the Constitution, the National Water Act and the Water Services Act to ensure that the current situation is arrested and the normal functioning of these facilities returned to standards prescribed by their authorisations.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND SANITATION