Report-back from Etienne Hugo
There are four hotspots within City of Joburg (CoJ) impacting on the Jukskei:
1. Inner city and Bruma Lake. The 240km sewer network in the city is compromised by vandalism, sewer miners that block sewers to mine for valuables, theft and ageing infrastructure. Sewer maintenance and upgrade in this part of the city is underway, for completion by end of November.
2. Alexandra. There are multiple issues here. Beyond the litter and general pollution, houses have been built on sewers which make them inaccessible, illegal connections have been made to the sewers leading to overload and spillages. A new initiative is underway; a Working Group has been set up to bring together all the critical CoJ departments to tackle the problem of Alexandra holistically. Their first meeting is on November 10 and will include the Mayor of Joburg. This Working Group intends to report back three-monthly on progress.
3. Leeukop. The main sewer - about 1,8m square - running near Leeukop Prison became blocked and sewage began pouring from four manholes into the Jukskei in early August. A contractor, Esor Construction, was finally appointed on a three-year contract to deal with sewer problems across the city. Esor began work in September, cleared tons of debris, including sand, rags, a tractor tyre and a stillborn baby. It has now hit a blockage that would not clear. A specially-designed bucket machine is now on site to try and clear this. The aim is to try and have this work done and the sewer restored by mid-November. No specific deadline can be given for when the sewer will be flowing freely again. There are likely to be further sewage flows into the Jukskei until this blockage is fully cleared.
4. Northern Waste Water Works (NW). Two major problems: lack of emergency storage and pumping capacity to deal with peak flows at night and early morning. Sludge Dam01 is now being cleaned but will only be finished in March 2017, not November as initially programmed. Besides contractor problems that led to initial delays, septic sludge at the bottom of the dam has to be mixed with sand brought into the works before it can be removed. The new pump station was delayed for eight months by structural issues. The pumps are now in and commissioning should be within a week. There have also been maintenance management issues at the works over a lengthy period. These have been resolved with the appointment of a qualified maintenance manager from 1 October. Dam 02 will be cleaned by the end of 2017. All key maintenance work now underway should be finalised by the end of 2017, putting the NW back to full operational capacity.
· Is the funding available from CoJ for the work required on NW? Etienne Hugo: Yes. But not enough for what is needed for the other five waste water works in CoJ.
· Has a full audit been done of the demand for sewerage in Cosmo City and Zandspruit? Many stands have several homes, making the capacity required far more than was planned for. The CoJ Department of Housing needs to be involved in such an audit.
· “Sewer rats”, who damage the sewer network by breaking into manholes and blocking sewage flow, can make R3 000+ per week mining sewage! They even move one-ton blocks put onto manholes to prevent the covers being lifted.
· There are initiatives in place to educate communities about correct use of sewers and the impact of damage done by vandalism and incorrect usage. This is a slow process.
· Is ARMOUR involved with the Hennops River? It will be and encourages residents there to attend meetings of the Hennops River Management Forum.
· Use the city’s own planning and budgetary structures - the annual Integrated Development Planning (IDP) process that takes place in each ward - to be “a voice for water”. This means attending the IDP meetings and putting forward the case for greater expenditure and focus on management of the catchment system. ARMOUR will alert communities to when these will take place in the new year.
· Other city forums - such as the Business Forum and Sustainability Subcommittee in the CoJ - are also useful platforms to lobby for accountable waterway management.