Members complained that they needed to be given enough time to engage and interrogate the documents. However, the delay in the receipt of documents did not give them sufficient time to go through them. It was irresponsible of the Department to repeatedly do this with the expectation that Members would condone this behaviour. Despite this, Members resolve to allow the Department to present all the documents. Where Members found fault, the Department could rectify before the next meeting.
Concerning the Vaal River Intervention, the Department explained that the impact on the Vaal River was the discharge of non-compliant wastewater effluent and a negative impact on river ecology, ecosystems and on socio economic growth as well. The design treatment capacity was at its limit and that there were delays in implementation of housing development investments (i.e. Savannah City and River City). There was also a negative environmental and health impact.
There was infrastructure that was over 60 years old, and there had been a lack of Operation and Maintenance (O&M) investment and the occurrence of vandalism and theft. The objectives of the Vaal River Intervention Implementation Plan were then outlined as well as the notable progress made to date.
The Department presented the plans for the upgrades and urgent refurbishment of the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works. The delegation summarised scope of the project and outlined the project objectives; contractor details; covid-19 implications and the measures put in place to limit the impact of lockdown restriction on the contract.
The Members expressed that they were mostly pleased with the two presentations. They commended the Department for the progress reports on the Vaal River intervention and the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works.
A Member reported that there was a huge pollution issue currently at the Vaal Dam in Deneysville. She said that this was caused by the Metsimaholo Waste Water Treatment Plant and that the reason for this was that the plant could not cope with the amount of sewage it received. Which unit in the Department was responsible for the managing of gaging stations? What challenges are being encountered? How many litigation cases have the Department of Water and Sanitation dealt with? At what cost to the Department were the two issues managed?
Opening remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting by asking all attendants to observe a moment of silence for meditation and prayer for the difficult period that South Africa was going through due to the pandemic.
She then proceeded with welcoming the Committee Members, the support staff and the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation officials, Deputy Minister David Mahlobo; Mr S Mthembu, Sedibeng CEO/Department of Water and Sanitation Gauteng Provincial Head; Mr G Martins, Sedibeng Board/City of Tshwane Administrator.
She asked the Committee to vote for the adoption of the agenda, and she acknowledged receipt of apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister. The Chairperson then highlighted the purpose of the meeting, which was for the Department to brief the Committee on its covid-19 interventions and its progress report emanating from the Members’ oversight visit.
Before proceeding with the agenda, the Chairperson recognised Ms E Powell (DA), who raised her concerns about the receipt and delay of presentations. She said that the Committee needed to be given enough time to engage and interrogate the documents. However, the delay in the receipt of documents did not give Members sufficient time to go through them.
The Chairperson noted this concern and recognised.
A Member shared her concerns with the absenteeism of the Minister and said that the Minister was hardly present at the Committee meetings when expected to. She requested for an explanation regarding the Minister’s absence.
The Chairperson noted this and proceeded to recognise Ms M Mohlala (EFF).
Ms Mohlala objected to the adoption of the agenda, adding to what Ms Powell had mentioned earlier. She did not believe that the Committee had to adopt a presentation which was sent at 10am the very same day it was to be presented – only giving members two hours to peruse prior to the meeting. This was unfair to the Members because they had repeatedly requested the Department to submit documents on time.
The Chairperson said that she heard the Members and said that the complaints coming from them were fair and as the Committee they would discard agenda item number one and continue with the second item.
Mr M Tseki (ANC) added that he heard the Members complaints but suggested that the Committee allow the Department to present all the documents. Where Members found fault, the Department could rectify before the next meeting.
Ms Mohlala added to Ms Powell’s point and said that it was irresponsible of the Department to repeatedly do this with the expectation that Members would condone this behaviour. She supported the suggestion that the costs of meetings would fall upon officials who were responsible for these delays.
The Chairperson thanked the Members for their inputs and highlighted that she stood with the members who requested not to discuss the first item on the agenda.
The Chairperson asked for the meeting to continue without engaging further on issue of delayed documents. She handed over to the Deputy Minister and the officials from the Departments of Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation the platform to present.
Briefing by the Department of Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation
Vaal River Intervention
The opening of the presentation was led by the Director-General, Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, who briefly introduced the delegation and explained what the purpose of the presentations were before handing over to the Department’s official, Mr Mthembu.
Mr Mthembu explained what the problem had been prior to the implementation of the intervention. He explained that the impact on the Vaal River was the discharge of non-compliant wastewater effluent and a negative impact on river ecology, ecosystems and on socio economic growth as well. He said that design treatment capacity was at its limit and that there were delays in implementation of housing development investments (i.e. Savannah City and River City). There was also a negative environmental and health impact.
When it came to infrastructure, Mr Mthembu said there was infrastructure that was over 60 years old, adding that there had been a lack of Operation and Maintenance (O&M) investment and the occurrence of vandalism and theft. Therefore, the objectives of the Vaal River Intervention Implementation Plan involved:
- Securing and safeguarding the infrastructure
- Repairing bulk network to eliminate current spillages
- Repairing key and critical pump stations and rising mains
- Refurbishing wastewater treatment works to comply with discharge license conditions
- Achieving operation & maintenance requirements
- Minimising and stopping Vaal river pollution
Mr Mthembu said that the overall findings on site included safety and security, and highlighted that there had been cable theft at pump stations and WWTWs. He also indicated that there had been stolen steel grid walkways in pump stations, making them inaccessible and unsafe for Operations and Maintenance, while there was also uncontrolled access to some of the pump stations. When it came to bulk sewer network, there were spillages, major spills in the bulk network and blocked bulk lines due to foreign objects such as rocks, solid waste, disposable nappies and sand. The damaged manholes constricted pipelines and there was a need for pipe replacement and repairs. Regarding critical pump stations and rising mains, collector pump stations were not operational and this led to spillages in the Vaal River Catchment and aged rising mains needed to be replaced.
Mr Mthembu touched on the refurbishment of WWTW and said that the flow arriving at the WWTW had decreased drastically due to spillages in the bulk sewer network and non-operational pump stations. He said that high extraneous flows led to hydraulic overloading of the WWTW and that aged existing modules needed refurbishment. There was a challenge in operation and maintenance, which include limited staff complement of 21 to operate and maintain the sewer network, pump stations and WWTW. There was a fleet of seven bakkies and two jet vac trucks which were currently out of commission to undertake the operations and maintenance work; there were no spares and consumables (fuel, oil, parts, etc.). He added that suppliers owed money so the Department could not procure any more services, order spares or repairs. Further, Rand Water operations support had also stopped.
Mr Mthembu said that the intention of the implementation plan was to eliminate the spillages at PS2, PS8, PS9 and PS10 by June 2020 through short-term pollution-control interventions; ensure that this cluster of pipelines and pump stations and the wastewater treatment works of operational by February 2021. He further explained how the implementation of the plan would impact safety and security, bulk network unblocking and repairs, and operation and maintenance through a phased approach. He said that success factors involved governance arrangements, which include, Political Steering Committee, Project Steering Committee and Technical Steering Committee (TSC). The work needed to be done had been divided into 26 work packages and with each having an estimated cost attached to it (see presentation for more details). The estimated cost prior to the lockdown was initially underestimated because engineers were brought in to make a more accurate estimation on the cost of things that needed to be done. Upon thorough inspection, the estimated cost had gone up to R22bn and it has been broken down into the 26 work packages. He also explained the VRSI Project Management Approach. He reported that ERWAT was appointed for 12 months ending June 2020 for:
- Gravity and Rising main: Leakages and deficiencies in the sewer network system replaced and repaired.
- Pump stations: Prioritised upgrade of forty-four (44) pump stations.
- Wastewater Treatment Works: All three treatment plants should be refurbished to optimal functionality.
- Appointment contract value R141 million
- Work done would include unblocking, general labour for cleaning and security
- All contracts appointed by ERWAT would be handed over to DWS
He also reported on the progress to date:
- ERWAT started working in the unblocking and repair project in December 2019.
- A total of 10 contractors were appointed to unblock sewer lines.
- Out of 27.4 kilometres (km) of bulk lines identified in Sebokeng Catchment, 25.236 km had been cleared.
- A total of 379 manholes cleaned to date in Sebokeng Catchment.
- A total of 46 manhole covers replaced on the reticulation network lines to date in Sebokeng Catchment.
- A total of 14 manholes replaced during unblocking of bulk lines in Sebokeng Catchment.
- Flow of sewer in Sebokeng WWTW increased due to 25.236 km of pipeline unblocked from 18 ml/d to 120 ml/d.
- Almost 50 tons of rubble removed from the bulk lines and network to date
- Unblocking of bulk lines in Leeuwkuil Catchment started mid-April and out of 15.8 km of bulk lines identified, only one kilometre was completed to date.
- A total of 24 manholes cleaned in Leeukuil catchment.
- Flow of sewer in Rietspruit WWTW had increased from 19 ml/d to 43 ml/d.
- The Department was taking over the management of the project because of the slow pace of delivery.
- According to Rand Water Module six of Sebokeng plant would be commissioned end of July 2020; this commissioning was subject to no community unrest.
Mr Mthembu explained the VRSI Project Management Approach Way Forward and said that the following would happen:
- ERWAT to remain as one of the stakeholders at Political Steering Committee and at TSC
- ERWAT had been appointed by Emfuleni LM to do its O&M
- DWS working with the intervention team had come up with BOQs
- DWS to advertise all BOQs
- Appoint Project Portfolio Office to assist DWS in the management of the project at a reduced cost than the IA fee
- Metsi a Lekoa to be capacitated to take over the SRSS scheme when the intervention ended
He also added that critical success factors would involve:
- Technical Task Team established to drive the process (include all stakeholders, i.e. DWS, ELM, etc.)
- Effective management of community expectations of the project
- Procurement Strategy to be flexible, quick, and efficient
- Adequate security to be provided (Armed guards, with response units)
- Consistent power supply (or adequate back up power was necessary)
- Operation & Maintenance support after rehabilitation was vital
- Funding to be available to meet cash flow requirements
- Other key technical staff, Environmentalist, OHS Agent and a Quantity Surveyor
Mr Mthembu also informed the Committee about the risks and mitigation processes that would be in place. These include governance, O&M, effective monitoring of contractors, budget, delays in procurement, contract overrun, stakeholder relationship, vandalism and project stoppages and unrests.
He handed over to the Deputy Minister.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo thanked the official for the first presentation and requested to conclude after the second presentation had been given.
Mr Gilberto Martins, City of Tshwane, began by giving a background on phase one upgrades and urgent refurbishment of the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works. Mr Martins said that WWTW was situated in Region two, next to the Apies River and the Rooiwal Power Station. He added that the plant received wastewater from Atteridgeville, Pretoria CBD, Pretoria North and the Rosslyn area Rooiwal WWTW was designed for an organic load of 84 000 kg/d. The design hydraulic load was 110 Ml/d; main outfall sewers draining to Rooiwal WWTW: Rooiwal West and Northern Works were fed from the Central and Western regions of the City of Tshwane (Tshwane); Rooiwal East Works was fed from the Eastern regions of Tshwane.
Mr Martins also outlined the problem faced over the intervention. He said that Rooiwal WWTW was designed for an organic load of 84 000 kg/d COD and received 143 000 kg/d COD. This represented a 70% organic overload. He said that the design hydraulic load was 110 Ml/d against an actual average dry weather flow (ADWF) of 130 Ml/d, representing an 18% hydraulic overload. He added that the treated effluent discharged to the Apies River did not comply with the compliance standards and the organic and hydraulic overload at the Rooiwal WWTW led to the production of sub-standard effluent and excess sludge.
He gave a summarised scope of the project. He said that there was:
- Upgrading of the Inlet works at the Rooiwal North Plant
- Upgrading of the biological reactors mixing and aeration system
- Upgrading of the anaerobic digester on the Rooiwal East Plant
- Upgrading of the anaerobic digesters on the Rooiwal West Plant
- Upgrading of the top sludge dewatering facility
- Upgrading of the Rooiwal North Plant flow balancing tank control systems
- Infrastructure upgrades and creation of additional treatment capacity were therefore required to address the capacity issue at the plant.
He outlined the project objectives and said that the first objective was to return the plant to normal operation and then to improve the quality of effluent discharge from the Rooiwal WWTP. Thirdly, the objective was to meet the effluent discharge requirements of the National Water Act (NWA). The fourth objective of the project was to improve the quality of discharges to the Apies River to address the detrimental impact on Themba WTP. Lastly, an objective was to have environmental rehabilitation studies of the Apies River and Leeukraal Dam.
Mr Martins also provided the Committee with the details of the contractor who had been assigned to the specific project and the progress that had been made. Regarding the Primary Settling Tank:
- Setting out of the new Primary Settling Tank (PST) had been done and checked.
- Ground penetration radar survey at PST was completed and checked.
- Construction method statements for the bulk earthworks excavation and lateral support system were done and approved.
- Bulk excavation of the PST was started and completed, and construction of the engineered foundation mattress was in progress.
When it came to by-pass pipeline, he reported that:
- Method statement for construction of the by-pass pipeline was completed
- Ground penetration radar survey at by-pass pipeline was completed and construction drawings updated by the Engineer
- Construction drawings were issued and excavation for existing services was carried out and confirmed.
- Construction drawings were further updated and construction excavation for the by-pass pipeline started.
Regarding the progress made on digesters, he reported that:
- Method statement for emptying and cleaning digesters had been approved.
- Emptying and cleaning of Digester No. 14 and 15 were almost completed.
In addition to this, he reported on the Filter Belt Presses, stating that:
- Stripping and removal of old filter belt presses at the Dewatering Building almost completed.
Mr Martins also gave an update on the impact of COVID-19. He said that the contract was suspended due to Nationwide Lockdown caused by the pandemic. The lockdown started on 26 March 2020 and was expected to be lifted on 30 April 2020. Work resumed with limited capacity on 18 May 2020 after lifting of national lockdown level four on 01 May 2020. He indicated that capacity would be increased with the move to level two.
In terms of the occupational health and safety, site establishment had been completed and no incidences had since been reported. The contractor had set up a COVID-19 screening station on-site and all visitors to the site were screened and sign declaration documents which were kept by the contractor in line with regulations requirements. Mr Martins said the security risks assessment had been concluded for implementation of improved security measures.
On social matters, Mr Martins said that there had been ongoing community disruptions by community business forums. Currently, there were standing arrangements to call upon South African Police Services (SAPS) to assist in the event of unmanageable disturbances. He said that the administrator had been engaged on resolution of CLO and LDO appointments which were causing community protests and unrest. There had been an appointment of a Project Steering Committee to oversee community issues which were hampering progress on site. He concluded the second presentation by outlining again the progress that had been made to date.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo interjected to add to the input that had already been made by the two officials and said that progress was made with regards to the two projects. However, more work needed to be done. He thanked the Chairperson and the Committee for the platform.
Mr R Mashego (ANC) expressed how pleased he was with the two presentations. He sensed the willingness of the Department to do the work and a sense of objectivity from both presenters.
Mr Mashego asked Deputy Minister Mahlobo how willing the Department was to work with the Committee. He also raised concerns about the behaviour of Unions, saying that it was the position of the government to make decisions and that it would not be held at ransom by Unions.
Mr L Basson (DA) expressed his worries about the experience he had on the previous day regarding the progress at Rooiwal. He said that it seemed like the problem was being treated correctly, but he was also pleased with the progress being made.
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) said that at this point she had no comments and could tell from the report that progress was being made. However, she was still waiting to see the progress and results. Until the day the people of Hammanskraal could drink clean water, she would deem the progress made to be insufficient.
Ms Mohlala requested for a report on what was being done at the City of Tshwane regarding the rectification and upgrading of the system to treat effluent discharge, noting that there was a growing demand in the area. She said the Committee needed to understand the progress of the system after it had been upgraded. She posed a similar question to Vaal River: what other form of mechanism apart from issuing of directives has been implemented for non-compliance?
Mr M Tseki (ANC) commended the Department on a great job but he wanted to know why this job was only done now. He said that this made him question whether the same was being done in other municipalities. In the presentation there was a mention of carrot and stick, but he had not seen the stick. He said there was a need for accountability.
Ms M Mokgotho (ANC) said that there was a huge pollution issue currently at the Vaal Dam in Deneysville. She said that this was caused by the Metsimaholo Waste Water Treatment Plant and that the reason for this was that the plant could not cope with the amount of sewage it received. Which unit in the Department was responsible for the managing of gaging stations? What challenges are being encountered? How many litigation cases have the Department of Water and Sanitation dealt with? At what cost to the Department were the two issues managed?
Ms G Tseke (ANC) commended the Department for the progress reports on the Vaal River intervention and the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works. She emphasised that the Department should be able to communicate with the community and the rest of the country. This was especially true, considering an outcry from the members of society about dirty water.
Ms Mvana (ANC) welcomed the progress reports by the Department as they offered an indication on what had been done and what was currently happening. She added that there was still a lot that needed to be done. But for now, the Committee needed to commend the work done. She requested to be updated on the protests that had taken place and said that she hoped that something had been done regarding that situation.
Ms N Tafeni (EFF) briefly commented on the work that has been conducted. She said that the report was clear and looked amazing, but this was not a reflection of the reality outside.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) shared her appreciation of the way in which the presentation had been reported before the Committee. She said that the only problem she had was that of monitoring.
Ms C Seoposengwe (ANC) said that she was pleased with the report and the progress that had been made. She also made a general comment about the usage of resources, especially scarce resources. She said that it was important that educational programmes or awareness campaigns were run to educate all stakeholders, especially community members. She said this would allow them to be part of the process and make them understand the importance of these plants – potentially own them too. She was still very happy with the presentation because even the mood felt different amongst the Members.
The Chairperson thanked the Members for their inputs. Regarding the work that had been presented by the Deputy President to remove polluters in departments, she said that the work of the Committee would have to move faster. She asked what was going to happen as the Vaal was cleaned. She added that security needed to be upgraded and in terms of labour; labour needed to participate.
Mr Martins said that concerning the question posed by Mr Basson, he was unaware that the photos received were correct. However, it would be something that the municipalities would look into it. Regarding the situation at Hammanskraal, Rooiwal was looking for a better way in which they could improve. He said that they were looking at the quality of the water and were looking at alternatives to improve this.
In terms of relocations and certifications, they were trying to make it a complete package. In some cases where spaces had been found, there was no clear cognisance of the situation and the basic services that were available. He added that the city was therefore looking into that. He said that the City of Tshwane was building more reservoirs. At the completion of phase one, there would be Standard Operating Procedure as a maintenance mechanism. He suggested that there would be need for full-time onsite maintenance team and to allow them to maintain a plant on an ongoing basis. Security would be a problem. He said that Tshwane went as far as allocating private security. He said that the municipality needed to come up with innovative ways of improving security, such as alarm systems. He added that the city was aware that the new infrastructure systems needed to be protected. There were funds allocated for the physical guarding of these systems and for innovative technology.
Mr Martins thanked the Committee and the Chairperson for the platform.
Mr S Mthembu said that he would begin by addressing the first comments. He explained what the Department was doing regarding the defaulting municipalities. He said that the Department was moving towards taking these municipalities to court. It had previously not had strategies for municipalities that were in debt, but there had since been developments which had now allowed the Department to deal with these swiftly. He said that the Department would send requested cooperative documents to the Chairperson.
He said that there had also been a plant that had discharged near the Vaal River and a team had been dispatched to do an assessment and quantify the damage that had been done. He said that the Department was taking serious measures against the polluters.
Responding to Ms Tseke’s point, he said that a communication strategy had been developed to send awareness messages. He said that the Department did need political support from all parties with the document that needed to go to council. The Department also did some monitoring along the Vaal River.
The Chairperson thanked the official and called on the Director-General to comment.
Mr Tshangana said that there were no points he would make at this stage except that there were going to be security clusters of the Directors-General. He said the Department would present not only the Vaal but all the other assets that were being managed. He then handed over to the Deputy Minister.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo thanked the Chairperson and the rest of the Committee. He gave an update on the Chairperson’s visit at some of these plants and said that there had 0been a very good cooperation amongst all stakeholders. He said that initially there was reluctance by certain officials, even at a political level. He thanked the Chairperson for giving weight to the situation.
He then thanked the Members for raising valid points with regards to theft and vandalism at plants and said that these also provided an opportunity to not only look at the issue from a security point but from a societal issue perspective. He agreed with what Ms Seoposengwe stated – when she said it was important for the Department to also mobilise communities. He said that most of the interventions that were being implemented now had been due for over a long period and could not be dragged further.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and the officials from the Department for the responses and invited Members to ask follow-up questions.
Ms Tseke said that regarding the progress report, there was a 30-day expectation of submission and this was not sufficient to the Department to compile in such a short period. She asked if it was not possible to receive this report packaged with the quarterly report instead.
The Chairperson said that in order for this to be withdrawn, it would have to be discussed with Members as it would require a unanimous decision – especially for Tshwane to submit monthly reports.
The Chairperson addressed the Department officials and the Deputy Minister. She said as the Department dealt with issues of security, the Portfolio Committee of Police was dealing with the credibility of the security companies in the country. She suggested that the Department appoint securities who would vet even the people who would work in the system.
The Chairperson allowed Ms Mohlala to have a follow-up question before handing over to the departmental officials.
Ms Mohlala needed some clarity on the facts about the length of the Rooiwal operation. She asked what the plan was going forward with the growth of the capacity.
Mr Martins said that he would address the Rooiwal capacity matter. He said that there were four phases; the first one focused on getting the system up and running. He explained how the later stages would function. He pointed out how this was affecting Tshwane but indicated that the situation was being monitored. He apologised for the delay in submission of the reports and said that he was not aware they had to be in. However, if there were more reports required from the office, they would be submitted.
Mr Mthembu said that the Department had a plan regarding refurbishment which it was working on with Tshwane. The Department was trying to cover the growing capacity. He apologised once again for the delays that had been caused from the Department’s side.
The Deputy Minister agreed with the point that was made earlier by the Chairperson on the vetting of security companies and individuals who worked for these security companies.
The Chairperson pointed out that she was not happy with officials agreeing to submissions during the meeting but then not follow through with the commit. She thanked the Members and the presenters from the Department.
The meeting was adjourned.
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