Willem Snyman, River Ranger, May 15 2018
Another foaming, raw-sewage filled day for the Hennops River, and I am trying to fathom the catastrophe: the sad case of the Hennops, once the cleanest river in Gauteng, deteriorating into the most polluted. Ancient ecosystems collapsing in less than a decade, billions of freshwater creatures now gone, their habitat turned into a highly polluted wasteland.
To try and understand how this tragedy was possible I went on a tour of Sunderland Ridge Waste Water Treatment Works, currently operating at around 60% efficiency. The treatment process is a relatively simple one of settling and agitation that is repeated in the same modules, using much electricity to turn large machines. It appears regular cable theft is the Achilles Heel bringing this system to its knees. Cable theft now even takes place in broad daylight, with thieves breaking through a wall. Security is still under the control of the Metro Police. Additional security should be provided by the Works but this costs money.
The funding could be provided from an unexpected source. Joburg Water sends some sewage to be treated here, but it seems because of clerical problems JW’s payment never reaches the Plant where it is needed. The last I could ascertain was that Joburg Water is waiting for invoices from Tshwane Municipality before they can pay, but nobody at Sunderland knows where to read the flow volume to do this. There appears to be payment due, going back a decade, which could help the Plant to function properly and protect itself against constant cable theft. Joburg Water should take some of the responsibility, as some of its waste ends up in the Hennops. And Tshwane should allocate these funds to where it is desperately needed..
Once the water is free of pollution the long road to rehabilitation can start to restore one of the greatest assets of Tshwane and Gauteng. The headwater sources are still pure and this ancient fountain-river and life-source that nourished our first ancestors must be brought back to life again – to help heal our toxic world and give life to us once again.