ATC150821: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation on an oversight visit to Gauteng Province 4-5 February 2015, dated 19 August 2015

Water and Sanitation


1.  Introduction


Two site visits were undertaken by the Portfolio Committee – one to Germiston, more particularly looking at progress of dealing with Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) in the Central Basin, and the other to Evaton to check the validity of reports regarding raw sewage spillages polluting the Rietspruit Stream.


This report serves to provide an account of the oversight visit conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation (Portfolio Committee) to the Gauteng Province 4-5 February 2015.  Members of the Portfolio Committee undertook two site visits. The first site visit was to Germiston to ascertain the progress made by the Department of Water and Sanitation and other relevant stakeholders to deal with Acid Mine Drainage, specifically in the Central Basin of the Witswatersrand region.  The second was to the Emfuleni Local Municipality to investigate raw sewage spillages in Evaton.





Mr M Johnson (ANC) (Chairperson); Ms J Maluleke (ANC); Mr T Makondo (ANC); Ms Bilankulu (ANC); and Ms H Kekana (ANC)



Mrs M Solomons (Committee Secretary); Ms S Dawood (Content Advisor); Mr T Manungfula (Committee Researcher); Ms Z Kula (Committee Assistant); and Mr A Maubane (Language Practitioner)



Mr D Mnguni (ANC); Mr AM Mponstshane (IFP); Mr LJ Basson (DA); Ms Balindlela (DA); and Mr MP Galo (AIC).


2.  Background and overview of work undertaken to address Acid Mine Drainage and Raw Water Spillages in Evaton


2.1 Acid Mine Drainage


Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is considered one of the country's greatest environmental challenges. It is associated with gold and coal mining when water reacts to any ore substance and becomes polluted. It arises during active mining and is more prevalent when mines cease operations and water management interventions are absent. Acid mine water is characterised by low pH, high salinity and dissolved metals.


Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) has severe impacts on water security, as well as negative impacts on surface and groundwater quality and is not restricted to the Gauteng province. Within the Gauteng province however, AMD has reached critical levels, particularly around the Witwatersrand gold mining basins. Within the Witwatersrand Goldfields, there are three basins, which are situated in an arc stretching more than 70 kilometres and reaching over 2000 metres in depth. Within each basin, the mines have been interconnected so that as each mine floods, it impacts on the adjacent mines. Once mining operations ceased, it became the responsibility of the last operating mine within each basin to carry the full cost of pumping and neutralising AMD. In some cases, this has become too great a burden on the owners, which leads to the closure and liquidation of the mines.

The previous Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs conducted two oversight visits and public hearings related to AMD during the 4th term of Parliament. In 2010, Cabinet recommended the establishment of an Interministerial Task Team on AMD and mine water management. The Interministerial Task Team recommended a number of measures to address the issue, which include the following:


  • Pumping out mine water to prevent it from reaching environmentally critical levels; and
  • Controlling ingress of water into mine shafts.


In the short term, solutions focus on treating acid mine water by neutralising high acidity and high metal content, followed in the longer term solution by the desalination of the water before pumping it out into the river systems.


The Department of Water and Sanitation briefed the Portfolio Committee on Acid Mine Drainage on 29 October 2014 on its interventions in respect of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD). It was reported that government solutions include emergency works, short, medium and long term solutions. Immediate solutions for the Western Basin include the upgrading of the mine water plant, as well as improvements in surface and groundwater quality. Short term solutions for the Central Basin include a new AMD pump station, constructing neutralising and waste disposal facilities in the South West Vertical Shaft, Germiston, which is at present, pumping, treating (neutralising) and discharging 56 mega litres of AMD water per day.


2.2 Raw sewage spillages in Evaton


The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation received reports regarding raw sewage spillages polluting the Rietspruit Stream in Evaton within the jurisdiction of the Emfuleni Local Municipality. In fulfilling its Constitutional mandate in undertaking its work on behalf of Parliament, the Portfolio Committee conducted oversight to the Emfuleni Local Municipality to check the following:


  • The validity of these reports;
  • To investigate the extent of water contamination;
  • Assess the state of water quality at the Emfuleni Local Municipality;
  • Conduct a site visit to the Rietspruit Stream; and
  • Receive a briefing from the Emfuleni Local Municipality on the following:
  • The extent of sewer spills and water contamination into the Rietspruit  Stream in Evaton;
  • Sewage spillages from the Kwa-Masiza Hostel polluting the Rietspruit;
  • Sewage overflowing from manholes in the Evaton area;  and
  • Actions and interventions by the Emfuleni Local Municipality and the Sedibeng District Municipality to address these issues.


3.  Findings from briefings and site visits on Acid Mine Drainage and raw water spillages at Evaton


3.1 Oversight on Acid Mine Drainage, 4 February 2015


3.1.1 Briefing by the Bembani Group


The Portfolio Committee received a briefing from the Bembani Group regarding solutions with regard to Acid Mine Drainage (AMD). This was presented by Mr T Baloyi. The Bembani Group comprises the following companies:  Bembani Sustainability Solutions (Pty) Ltd; Bembani Information Technology (Pty) Ltd; Phahama Media (Pty) Ltd; Environmental Water Technologies (Pty) Ltd; and Bembani Quatraflow (Pty) Ltd and CTG SA (Pty) Ltd.


Clients of the Bembani Group include PetroSA; Eskom; Anglo Platinum; SASOL; Arcelor Mittal and the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. 


In terms of AMD solutions, Bembani Quatraflow is a specialist company in mobile treatment of AMD water. It is a joint venture between Bembani Group (SA) and Quatraflow (UK) and seeks development of long term entrepreneurial solutions to addressing AMD in the Witwatersrand area. It sees AMD as a resource with huge potentials rather than liability.  The approach enables capital provision against long term concessions offered by government and reduces government funding needs in the short, medium and long term.


Proposals were submitted both to the Ministry of Water and Sanitation as well as Rand Water.  In terms of the proposal submitted, this included the granting of a 20-year concession to produce water from AMD sources in and around Johannesburg on a closed meter basis for supply to the Rand Water network at an agreed upon tariff rate. Rand Water, under government agreement, shall purchase all usable water supplied to agreed standards for human and cattle consumption at an agreed upon tariff rate in rand per cubic meter.  The proposal stressed that such a supply agreement will be exclusive and price index linked to the tariff rates of Rand Water. In terms of the proposal specific to Rand Water, it proposed that Rand Water considers two business models, namely: the provision of a take agreement for Bembani Quatraflow treated AMD water or the creation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) consisting of itself and Bembani Quatraflow to address AMD opportunity in the Witwatersrand.


In terms of the presentation, the proposals for the way forward was that Bembani Quatraflow, the Department of Water and Sanitation and Rand Water enter into a non-disclosure agreement; and Bembani Quatraflow to construct a pilot plant to be operational within three months of agreement.


3.1.2 Site Visit to South West Vertical Shaft in the Central Basin, Germiston


One of the key short term solutions was the installation of a pump station in the South West Vertical Shaft in the Central Basin in Germiston.  The purpose of the site visit was to observe the progress in addressing AMD with the installation of a new AMD pump station, neutralisation and waste disposal facilities. This project commenced in January 2013 and was commissioned in April 2014. At present, the facility is discharging 56 mega litres of AMD water per day.


Currently, the South West Vertical Shaft is the largest AMD treatment facility in South Africa. Two subterranean pumps each weighing approximately 20 tons with a length of 17 metres were custom made by a leading German company in mine dewatering. These pumps were ordered at a cost of R35 million each and are made of high duplex stainless steel to withstand the harsh environment in which it operates. The pumps are located 210 metres below the surface and suspended by a pipe stacks. The pumps convey AMD from deep within the mine void to the surface where it is treated and made safe for the environment.


The Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) was appointed the implementing agent for this project as an emergency short term intervention.  The main focus of the TCTA is to neutralise AMD and discharge it into the river system, whilst the feasibility study for a long term solution is being undertaken. The main purpose of this project is to maintain AMD below the Environmental Critical Levels, as defined in each of the basins and thereby prevent an environmental catastrophe from occurring. The environmental risks of AMD water reaching the Environmental Critical Levels include the following:


  • Flooding risks, which include contamination of shallow groundwater; flooding of underground infrastructure, as well as increased seismic activity; and
  • The decanting of AMD into the environment risks include ecological impacts, regional impacts on major river systems and localised flooding in low lying areas.


The processes involved at the South West Vertical Shaft include the treatment of the AMD water, which involves the neutralisation of the acidity and the removal of the heavy metals. The process followed is based on the proven High Density Sludge process (HDS) optimised through the use of limestone. The water, once treated, will still contain high salt loads and will need further treatment which includes desalination before it is brought to potable water quality. This treated water is then discharged into the Vaal River System, which has a natural resilience, and this system dilutes the treated water further.



3.1.3 Debriefing with the Department of Water and Sanitation on Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)


The Portfolio Committee had invited the Departments of Water and Sanitation, Environmental Affairs as well as Mineral Resources to the debriefing. The Departments of Environmental Affairs and Mineral Resources were unable to send officials to represent their respective departments. What follows is the Portfolio Committee's interaction with the Department of Water and Sanitation.


Presenters noted that AMD is impacting the Vaal River System, and that each litre of AMD water requires 5 litres of water released from the Vaal River System to be diluted to ensure that downstream users are not compromised. Mitigation strategies include various immediate, short-, medium- and long-term solutions to address AMD. Immediate solutions in the Western Basin include the upgrading of the mine water plant, Rand Uranium (Gold 1) in Randfontein. This site is currently discharging 30 mega litres of AMD per day. The purpose of this site is to improve the surface and groundwater quality.  Short-term solutions include the South West Vertical Shaft in the Central Basin and the Eastern Basin. Within the Eastern Basin, the project currently being developed is the Grootvlei Mine No 3 Shaft (Springs). The purpose of this project is the installation of a new AMD pump station as well as the neutralisation and waste disposal of AMD water. This project commenced in June 2014 and is expected to be commissioned and operational by December 2015. The operational target of this site is to discharge 80 mega litres of AMD water daily.


Cabinet's instruction was that parallel measures for AMD mitigation needed to be found, which include:


  • Ingress control, which is a concept aimed at preventing surface water leakage from mines;
  • Polluter pays Principle (National Water Act Section 19/20 Cost Recovery), which identifies relevant mines that pollute and invoke legislation so that these mines can be held responsible for environmental liabilities ascribed to their operations;
  • Environmental levy, which is a proposed levy to be imposed on all existing mines.  Discussions are being held with National Treasury to review the levy as a potential revenue stream to offset pollution costs incurred by Government;
  • Intensive monitoring to assess the impact of AMD and to evaluate the interventions; and
  • Research and pilot studies, with the Department of Water and Sanitation currently managing a database of potential AMD technologies with eighty nine (89) registered companies.


A feasibility study is currently being conducted into the long-term solutions for AMD. The study commenced in January 2012 and was finalised on 31 July 2013. The purpose of the study was to identify the most cost effective, technically sound, legally defensible, economically viable and environmentally sustained long term solution to remove or suitably reduce salt load in the Vaal River System due to AMD.

Long-term and emergency works for mitigating AMD has implications for the Vaal River Bulk Water Tariff. In respect of emergency works for the 2015/16 financial year, the projected increase is of R0.23 per cubic metre rising to 0.29 per cubic metre. In respect of long-term solutions which include neutralisation and desalination, from the 2017 financial year onwards, this rate increases to R0.99 per cubic metre. 


In terms of cost recovery for AMD funding, sources will come from mines, the Vaal River Tariff, Waste Discharge Charge System (WDCS) the proposed environmental levy, Polluter pays Principle of the National Water Act, outlined in Sections 19 and 20, as well as the tax payer.


3.1.4 Input by Portfolio Committee on Findings on Acid Mine Drainage


Use of private companies in respect of Acid Mine Drainage technologies and solutions


The Department reported that they were currently consulting with approximately ninety (90) companies in terms of AMD solutions and technologies. One such proposal was received by the Western Utilities Company. Departmental officials noted that by 2017, the Vaal River System will run out of water to dilute AMD. Planning and construction therefore needs to start immediately to ensure that there is no additional burden placed on stakeholders and ultimately the consumer as is currently the case with Eskom.


Reliance on good rains


The Department reported that one of the reasons why government was currently in a comfort zone in respect of AMD was because of the very good rains that Gauteng has received over the past few years. The Department however acknowledged that in the event of drought, AMD would very quickly reach crisis levels. The Department noted that an environmental impact assessment needed to be conducted, and in addition, there needed to be broad based community involvement before a decision can be taken on long-term AMD solutions.


The Portfolio Committee raised concerns that there was an over-reliance on factors that were not within anyone’s control, that is, good rains, and the mitigating plans to address this challenge, and this posed problems in the long-term to find reliable solutions to deal with AMD.


Costs of desalination


The presenter noted that once AMD water is treated, it still has a high pH content and needs to be desalinated before it can be used by any consumer. Current desalination technologies are very expensive and are not sufficiently cost effective to desalinate treated AMD water on a large scale. The Department and its stakeholders are exploring and conducting research on cost effective desalination technologies to address this issue.



The cost to consumers in respect of AMD


In terms of cost recovery for AMD funding, sources will come from mines, the Vaal River Tariff, Water Conservation/Water Demand Management (WC/WDM) programmes (with municipalities to decrease water loss from reticulation systems), the environmental levy, ’polluter pays principle’ outlined in Sections 19 and 20 of the National Water Act, as well as the tax payer. In addition, it is anticipated that funding would also come from the mines, government fiscus and loans, as well as public private partnership loans.



Short- and long- term operating costs of AMD


Currently, the operating costs of AMD per annum was R900 million and it was reported that the capital costs associated with long-term solutions for AMD treatment is approximately R10 billion.


3.2 Oversight on raw sewage spillages at Evaton, 5 February 2015


The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation received reports regarding raw sewage spillages polluting the Rietspruit Stream in Evaton within the jurisdiction of the Emfuleni Local Municipality. The Portfolio Committee conducted oversight to the Emfuleni Local Municipality to check the validity of these reports, and to investigate the extent of water contamination and the state of water quality at the Emfuleni Local Municipality. The water quality in the Rietspruit Catchment has been impacted on by activities such as mining, industry, sewage treatment plants and informal and formal human settlements. Observations were made on the  discharge of partially treated sewage into the Rietspruit by less capacitated sewage treatment works, spillage of raw sewage, non-removal of solid waste, lack of stormwater management as well as lack of proper sanitation in dense settlements.


3.2.1 Briefing at the Emfuleni Local Municipality


The Emfuleni Local Municipality reported that it was the largest Category B municipality in the country. The Municipality has been struggling financially as its residents are still owing R4.4 billion in unpaid rates and payments. The Municipality further reported that at present, it does not have a sufficient budget as the R4.4 billion owing by its residents is commensurate with the budget of the Municipality, and  it still owes Eskom R100 million for electricity. The grants received from government are ring-fenced and are also insufficient to meet and address the challenge of existing ageing infrastructure.   


In respect of the sewer spills and water contamination into the Rietspruit, the challenge was the deterioration of the bulk sewer conveyance and treatment infrastructure in the Emfuleni Local Municipality area. This issue has been of provincial and national concern for the past 15 years. Major causes were listed as the following:


  • Inadequate infrastructure capacity to cope with development;
  • High volume of sewer conveyance from the Southern Johannesburg due to the development of low cost housing;
  • Non-compliant effluent from the Waste Water Treatment Work in the Rietspruit;
  • Unreliability of ageing bulk infrastructure sewer collection; and
  • Outdated designs of pump stations there are approximately 50 pump stations.


Sewage from the Kwa-Masiza Hostel


In respect of the sewage from Kwa-Masiza Hostel, the presenter noted that this was caused by old infrastructure as well as leaking sewer and water pipes. The community was further compounding this problem by throwing unwanted materials into the sewer system, which further compromises the system – this is a recurrent problem. Interventions to date include the appointment of a contractor by the Department of Human Settlements, as well as developments to move occupants of the Kwa Masiza Hostel to new low cost houses in Golden Garden. This has since commenced.



Sewage blocking and over-spilling from manholes in Evaton


In respect of sewage from the manhole in Evaton, this is caused mainly by excessive fatty substances poured into the lines; sand deposits in the rainy season, as well as old clay pipes which consistently block and cause manholes to overflow. It was reported that the size of the pipes to accommodate the growing population in the area are too small, to contain large volumes of waste. The design of the pipes and the infrastructure capacity of pipes needs to be addressed. There were further allegations of community sabotage relating to service delivery unrest. The Emfuleni Local Municipality has spent R21 million on interventions to reduce spillages. Open manholes present a danger to children playing nearby as was recently seen in the unfortunate death of a child who fell into an open manhole. Cement lids have since been placed on the manholes in an effort to mitigate future incidents.


Short- and long-term solutions


The Emfuleni Local Municipality noted that in respect of short- and long-term solutions, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with Rand Water to assist with operations and maintenance of the sewer system.  This includes waste water treatment plants and pump stations installed since 2011 and work will continue up until 2015. Furthermore, a detailed study has been commissioned by Rand Water, which will outline what needs to be done in order to address the sewage spillage challenges and associated costs. An approval has been granted in respect of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant to upgrade main sewer gravity lines within the Evaton area, which will be implemented in the Evaton area in the 2014/15 financial year at a cost of R18 million. Further Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) funding was obtained for the 2014/15 financial year for the diversion of the Eastern outfall sewer flow from Leeukil to a new pump station with a capacity of 5000 x 3.5 KM rising main and a further 6000 x 3KM gravity, which will be implemented in the 2014/15 financial year. Upgrading of the Sebokeng Water Care Works has already commenced with upgrading of module 6 to accommodate ever increasing capacity constraints to the value of R250 million as part of the Sedibeng Regional Sanitation Scheme under the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant Support from the National Department of Water and Sanitation.


Rand Water was appointed as the implementing agent in respect of the Waste Water Treatment Works. Its role is the provision of operations and maintenance of Waste Water Treatment Works including pump stations; on the job training and skills transfer to process controllers; laboratory services as well as the implementation of the Industrial Effluent Monitoring programme. Between 2009 and 2014, effluent quality had improved from 50% to 85%.


In respect of the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works project, the 1 billion rand project was not in the hands of the Municipality. This project was removed from the jurisdiction of the Municipality by the Minister of Water and Environment.   Prior to the project being removed from the authority of the Municipality, it had already reached advanced negotiation levels with an implementing agent company, CMC. Part of that agreement was that 30% of work must be given to local contractors. These guidelines were not adhered to, which resulted in this project now being at a standstill.


3.1.2 Input by Portfolio Committee on findings of raw sewage spillages at Evaton, 5 February 2015


Municipal Infrastructure Grants (MIG), and other grant to offset operations and maintenance of water infrastructure


The Municipality reported that it receives R151 million in Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) funding and this funding must be spread amongst various departments of the Municipality. As a result, it was not possible to access MIG funding to address the issue of ageing infrastructure as MIG funding does not fund the maintenance cost of infrastructure. As a result, funding for the maintenance of infrastructure must come from the coffers of the Municipality. The Municipality is still trying to recover R4.4 billion in municipal debt owed by ratepayers. As much as 54% of the residents of the Emfuleni Municipality are unemployed. The Municipality has now resorted to debt collection through MBD Attorneys for the recovery of this debt. In addition, many residents are claiming to be indigent and request exemption from the debt. To resolve the matter, the Municipality has furthermore engaged the services of a company named Cross Check to check the actual numbers of indigent households against the numbers claimed. The Municipality indicated that it was trying its best to ensure that municipal services are still being rendered with the greatly reduced budget that it has at its disposal. The Municipal noted that it is doing a lot with limited resources.



Locally sourced labour


There are massive challenges securing 30% local subcontractors. The policy of the Municipality was to groom local companies as it relates to procurement, and all wards were meant to submit names for employment on the project. There are allegations that the operating company that was meant to work with Rand Water appointed people without consultation. This resulted in massive protests about the project resulting in the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works project coming to a complete standstill resulting in millions in losses for the Municipality.


Availability and use of resources allocated to the municipality


The budget of the Municipality is R4.4 billion which is the same amount owed to the Municipality. As part of a master plan to address water and sewage challenges, the municipality needs R1.1 billion and R192 million in the medium term to address these challenges. (A comprehensive report on progress on funding and resource allocations on addressing water and sewage challenges in the Emfuleni Local Municipality is to follow.)


Escalation of raw water spillages and the delay of the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment


A comprehensive report to follow from the Emfuleni Local Municipality, as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation.


Directives issued to municipalities on water pollution to rivers and streams


Documentation submitted by the Department of Water and Sanitation showed that a number of directives, under section 19 (3) of the National Water Act for polluting Rietspruit Stream were issued to the Municipality.  Although certain actions were undertaken to remedy the situation, questions were raised about the importance of the directives in relation to it being criminally prosecuted.  Officials argued that within the intergovernmental scope of working, the criminal route was the last option and most often national and provincial structures cooperate and work well together.  


4. Conclusion and Recommendations


Water pollution in South Africa is of utmost concern due to water being a scarce commodity.  There are a number of causes of damaging water pollution in South Africa.  These comprise, amongst others, the following:


  • The disturbance of natural vegetative land by the building of houses, roads and industries (such as mining and petroleum);
  • Increased population density in areas with insufficient infrastructure to deal with increased amounts of waste and sewage; and
  • Inadequate sewage collection and treatment in many parts of the country.


In undertaking the site visits to Germiston and Evaton, the critical underlying factors that underpinned this particular oversight was the serious pollution of rivers and streams by Acid Mine Drainage as well as sewage overflows.  The Portfolio Committee noted certain important legislative, policy and financial constraints applicable to both issues, and proposed certain recommendations, common to AMD and sewage overflows, and specific to each of the issues:


‘Polluter pays Principle’


‘Polluter pays Principle’ states that whoever is responsible for damage to the environment should bear the costs associated with it. However, the extent to which this enforceability applied differs from sector to sector.  The Portfolio Committee therefore requests the relevant stakeholders at national and provincial level to consistently apply the principle so as to ensure continuous progress in reaching water quality across the country.


Use of directives by the Department of Water and Sanitation and compliance thereof


Although the directives given to mines and affected municipalities are excellently drafted, the Portfolio Committee noted that the Department needed to be strong enough to follow up on recalcitrant mines and municipalities or any person/industry polluting rivers and streams. 


Financial resources


In both areas of scrutiny by the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, that of AMD and sewage spillages, financial resources to address the problems was a critical inhibiting factor to fast track sustainable solutions of balancing water quality with improved economic and social development of the nation. 


Whilst the funding for the short-term solutions to AMD are available, the long-term solutions are highly scientific and technological, and therefore requires much-needed capital to ensure success of the interventions.  With the sewage and related water problems in the Emfuleni Municipality, financial constraints impacted on operations and maintenance of old and new water infrastructure.  Though money was available for the construction of water schemes, water treatment plants, etc. the grants provided to municipalities did not allow for use of budgets to be assigned for operations and maintenance of water infrastructure.


This was of huge concern to the Portfolio Committee and a request was made that on both these issues, a comprehensive report be drafted which refers to all challenges, costing of future projects as well as solutions that could be forwarded to National Treasury or the relevant departments.


The National Water Act and protection of water resources


The South African National Water Policy (1996) and National Water Act are explicit about the need to protect aquatic ecosystems in order to allow for sustainable achievement of social and economic benefits from these systems.  A balance is required between protecting rivers and achieving economic development.  Other important guidelines emanating from policy, protocols, regulations and other pieces of legislation refer to the need to develop strong policy for waste discharge charges; water quality management; groundwater protection; support to local capacity building as well as ensuring a healthy ecosystem for all citizens in South Africa.


Whilst the Portfolio Committee noted the importance of the drafting of policy, regulations, legislation and protocols, it argued that the substantive content was not necessarily aligned to the implementation thereof.  The Department and relevant stakeholders were requested to ensure that the provisions found in legislation, regulation, protocols and policy documents are framed such there are reasonable expectations in executing the mandate by relevant stakeholders.




Report to be considered.



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