The Committee received a briefing in a virtual meeting from the City of Tshwane on the interventions in respect of the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW), which receives wastewater from Atteridgeville, the Pretoria central business district, Pretoria North, Soshanguve South and the Rosslyn area.
The Tshwane municipality reported that the WWTW releases sub-standard effluent due to hydraulic and organic overloading. The water in the Leeuwkraal Dam was of poor quality due to the discharge of partially treated sewage effluent from the Rooiwal WWTW, and the Temba water treatment works (WTW) abstracts water from the Leeuwkraal Dam for purification and supply to the Hammanskraal area. As a result, the water produced at the Temba plant was of poor quality and not potable.
The municipality said the Rooiwal WWTW was currently overloaded and could not produce good quality effluent in its current state. This had been caused by deviation from the master plan due to budgetary constraints. The master plan had indicated the need for expansions of the WWTW as far back as 2004. Maintenance had lagged due to the unavailability of sufficient funds, leading to long lead times during breakdowns. The hydraulic and organic overloads led to a continuous discharge of partially treated effluent that impacted the Apies River and the Leeuwkraal Dam negatively. The municipality described the steps it was taking to resolve the situation.
Members were concerned about the quality of water currently supplied by the City of Tshwane to residents of Hammanskraal, and whether it met the standards set by the government on water suitable for human consumption. They were also concerned about the delays in completion of the master plan, which was initially conceived nearly 20 years ago. They asked about the impact of the water challenges on business development in the area, as no one would want to invest in such an environment and this affected job creation. The Committee called for collaboration with the national and provincial governments to resolve the water issues of Tshwane.
The Chairperson read out the agenda for the day and welcomed Alderman Peter Sutton, Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Finance, and his team from the Tshwane Municipality.
Briefing by Tshwane Municipality
Mr Stephens Notoane, Group Head: Water and Sanitation, Tshwane Municipality, said the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) was situated in Region 2, next to the Apies River. The plant receives wastewater from Atteridgeville, the Pretoria central business district (CBD), Pretoria North, Soshanguve South and the Rosslyn area. The Rooiwal WWTW releases sub-standard effluent due to hydraulic and organic overloading. The water into the Leeuwkraal Dam was of poor quality, due to the discharge of partially treated sewage effluent from the Rooiwal WWTW.
The Temba Water Treatment Works (WTW) abstracts water from the Leeuwkraal Dam for purification and supply to the Hammanskraal area. Water produced at the Temba Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was of poor quality and not potable due to the poor raw water quality from the Leeuwkraal Dam. The Hammanskraal area receives water from three supply systems. The Western parts are mainly supplied from the Soshanguve DD pipeline, with water sourced from Rand Water. The Eastern parts are mainly supplied through the Babelegi reservoir, with water sourced from Magalies Water. The central areas are supplied through the Temba Water Treatment Works (WTW) for non-potable uses. Potable water in the central areas is provided through water tankers.
Rooiwal WWTW was currently overloaded and could not produce good quality effluent in its current state. This was caused by a deviation from the master plan due to budgetary constraints. The master plan had indicated the need for expansion of the Rooiwal WWTW as far back as 2004. Maintenance had lagged due to unavailability of sufficient funds, leading to long lead times during breakdowns. Constrained capacity had led to hydraulic and organic overloads, which had resulted in a continuous discharge of partially treated effluent that impacted the Apies River and the Leeuwkraal Dam negatively. Raw water abstracted from the Leeuwkraal Dam could not be reliably purified at the Temba WTW for potable use.
The solutions required:
- An upgrade and refurbishment of the Rooiwal WWTW to accommodate current flows.
- Continuous maintenance of plant and equipment to ensure reliability and availability at both Rooiwal WWTW and Temba WTW.
- Alternative drinking water supply in affected areas.
- Capacity expansion of the Rooiwal WWTW to enable growth and development.
- Rehabilitation of the receiving water bodies (Apies River and Leeuwkraal Dam) to near-pristine conditions.
The upgrade entailed the upgrading of the inlet works at the Rooiwal North Plant; the biological reactors mixing and aeration system; the anaerobic digester on the Rooiwal East Plant; the anaerobic digesters on the Rooiwal West Plant; the top sludge dewatering facility; and the Rooiwal North Plant flow balancing tank control systems.
The project had faced delays because of:
- Community interruptions (involving business forums);
- Appointments of sub-contractors and labour;
- The nationwide Covid-19 lockdown;
- Scaling down of the workforce due to Covid regulations;
- Periodic temporary suspension of work due to Covid -19 infections on site;
- The contractor had abandoned the site for almost a month after the builders’ break; and
- Delayed payment of suppliers and labourers by the contractor
Milestones achieved include maintenance contractors for mechanical and electrical repairs were in place and active. Two belt filter presses had been refurbished and commissioned for improved sludge management. The maturation dams had been dredged. Flow was being diverted to fill the ponds and allow effluent polishing, as originally designed.
The Rooiwal WWTW phase I upgrade project provides for specialist studies for the rehabilitation of the Apies River and the Leeuwkraal Dam. A specialist sub-consultant had been appointed for the rehabilitation study and the study was underway. The final report would inform the scope for appointment of a contractor to carry out rehabilitative work, as well as consultation with the relevant regulatory authorities.
Future expansions of the project include the creation of an additional 80Ml/d treatment capacity and associated sludge processing. The project would alleviate the current overload and the additional spare capacity would ensure sustainable growth. The City was currently sourcing funding for the phase 2 project, estimated at R2.6bn The previous Minister had made a commitment to allocate funding. The City was also talking to the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), National Treasury and other funders.
Maintenance activities were continuing in-house and through external service providers to ensure availability of equipment and to minimise interruptions on plant operations. The completion of the Rooiwal Phase 1 upgrades would have a marked improvement in water quality. The combined capex (upgrades) and opex (maintenance) endeavours would yield considerable improvements in the effluent quality. Continuous discharge of improved effluent quality into the Apies River would consequently improve the water quality in the Leeuwkraal Dam and enable production of South African National Standards (SANS) 241 compliant water at the Temba Water Treatment Plant.
Mr G Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) asked about the state of the quality of water provided by the Tshwane Municipality in order to update his constituency. He asked in which year the standards of water consumption quality were promulgated, and whether the water that people drank complied with those standards. There was also emerging research by the Universities of Cape Town, the Western Cape and Stellenbosch, which pointed out that water quality standards were problematic and that the norms and standards were now outdated. The research also indicated that poorly treated sewage and water quality would cause more harm to people than climate change.
Mr L Basson (DA) called for the Department of Water and Sanitation and the City of Tshwane to sit together and resolve all the water problems in Tshwane for the benefit of the community.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) asked about the status of the water quality supplied to Hammanskraal. She also asked if the city had capacity to maintain its water infrastructure going forward, given the growing population as well as migration. What progress had been made by the city in addressing the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission on water quality in Hammanskraal?
Mr M Tseki (ANC) was not happy with the delays because of Covid 19, since waterworks were considered essential. He asked if there was sufficient budget for the October 2022 completion date to be met.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) was not happy that Tshwane was giving residents poor quality water, and asked when this had been discovered. She asked for an assessment of the water quality reports, and any disease outbreaks as a result. She was not happy that the Rooiwal upgrade was initially conceived in 2004 and now it was 2022. She wanted clarity on delays caused by community protests and contractor disputes. Was the master plan still relevant, given that it was initially conceived in 2004? Were the upgrades properly budgeted for in this financial year?
Ms C Seoposengwe (ANC) was disappointed by the failure to provide good quality water. The people had been patient because they were poor and helpless. This took them back to the apartheid days. While water tanks gave relief, sometimes people had to run after the tanks. She asked for the impact on business development, as no one would want to invest in such an environment, and this affected job creation.
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) asked if there were any rehabilitation plans for the waste waterworks.
The Chairperson commented that the report had been honest in terms of progress. The completion dates kept shifting from May to August and then October. He asked if the October 2022 date was realistic. The presentation did not show a call for help from the province or the national department. Was the budget sufficient? He asked if the Minister had been asked for help for a commitment made by the former Minister. In 2019, the Committee had received a legacy report on Rooiwal and it was resolved that something must be completed as soon as possible, but it seemed it had not yet been done.
Tshwane Municipality's response
Mr Notoane said that the inputs and comments by the Committee were welcome. The water supplied by the city complied with SANS 241, which was a national standard. The water produced by the Temba Plant was non-compliant, which was why there were alternatives. The city also supplemented the supply with tankers.
He agreed that the City and the national Department of Water and Sanitation must work together and from his experience, the Department had been very supportive and they had shared ideas. What the city was dealing with was more of a money issue than a capacity issue, as money was needed for investment in infrastructure. The situation was not peculiar to Tshwane, but across all municipalities in South Africa.
When a master plan is developed, it advises one that if one wanted to develop something, the sewerage system may need to be upgraded. The master plan's success was based on investment, but the investment was not adequate to support the plan. The municipality was collaborating with the University of Pretoria in sharing ideas, as it sits within its jurisdiction.
The project was fully funded over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF), and no money issues were expected.
Delays because of Covid had been because regulations at one time called for all construction activities to be temporarily on hold, from May to June 2020. There were also infections, and the work was temporarily put on hold for worker safety. He would rather be lambasted than compromise the health of the working staff.
There was a health department in the city, and they would come forward should there be an outbreak of disease linked to the water. There had been no outbreak linked to water. The Human Rights Commission's recommendations did not speak about any outbreaks.
The future budget of R2.6 billion was the one that was not available. The Deputy Mayor had written to the Minister’s office and was still awaiting a response. The city was talking to Treasury and hoped that a financial solution would be found to move to the next phase.
The disruptions were because before appointing contractors, some business forums required a certain amount to be paid. There had been a shooting incident at Rooiwal and the South African Police Service (SAPS) had to be brought to the site. This had happened at the beginning of the project, but the matter was resolved.
The city was not being patient with the contractors -- the October completion date would be realised with the contractors, on penalties.
The city had a good master plan which it believed in; a team of in-house engineers had been supported by a specialist consultant in coming up with a master plan. If the plan was followed and investment made, there would be no discussions like the one for today.
The business around the Temba area was supplied by water from Magalies to alleviate the challenges for the business node. The scope for the upgrade provided for rehabilitation of the environment to its near pristine condition.
The team was fairly new, and could not respond to issues that happened before 2017. There was a schedule for the project, and the contractor had delayed. They had been provided with a recovery plan for catch up, and if they did not meet the schedule, they would be put on notice for termination of the project. The city had a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the national Department, with Rand Water, Magalies and the University of Pretoria. There was a lot of support that the city got locally and internationally
Mr Sutton acknowledged all the questions that had been asked and said there had been many mistakes that had been made in the past. The city of Tshwane was not proud of the situation, but it needed to resolve the issues rather than point fingers.
Although the capex was funded, it was focusing more on operational expenditure. In the past, a lot of investment had been made, but with no maintenance budget. The city was in a very difficult position, but it was trying its best. The city needed support from all spheres of government in the formalisation of informal settlements. Water was a necessity and a scarce resource that had to be managed carefully, and support was needed from the national and provincial governments.
When the budget was tabled in March, it would address all the critical issues that the communities faced. There was a political commitment to address all the water issues in Tshwane
The Chairperson thanked the MMC and his team. There was light at the end of the tunnel. If there was no finger-pointing, politics was not an issue. Out there, people needed service delivery today, rather than politics now -- one could ask for votes in the future.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee for being professional and for raising the issues objectively without any politics involved.
The meeting was adjourned
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