LEPHALALE – “Raw sewerage has been pouring into the Mokolo River for more than a year now thanks to the Municipality’s and the opposition party, the DA’s, ignorance and incompetence in being able to do anything about the situation”. So says Wynand Botha – a river bank farmer and business owner.
According to Botha he is now tired of sweet talk. “Law and order needs to be maintained” he says.
Botha says that the new pumps purchased for Pump station 23 are simply lying there and are not in use. According to Botha he visited the pump station on Monday where a contractor on site told him he was also the engineer on the project. “How can an engineer allow sewerage to flow into the river?” asked Botha. The contractor was apparently appointed to install a screen, but Botha says a screen will not make any difference as the basics are not right.
Botha says he has tried without success to get hold of Lawrence Thlako, Executive Manager: Infrastructure at the Lephalale Municipality. “This is an emergency situation and it is a criminal offence to pump masses of sewerage into the river” he says. He added that as long as incompetent people are in positions in the municipality where they cannot cope, nothing will change. He is tired of the excuse that it is the public’s fault because foreign objects in the system cause obstructions. “We are not monkeys” he says. “Towns all over the world are faced with the same problem but the difference is that the people in charge are competent enough to handle it. Unfortunately, we have a municipality driven by politics without the discipline to manage it’s workers”.
Kobus Roux, previously Deputy State Engineer at the Lephalale Municipality says that people’s toilet habits have stayed the same over all the years. “There have always been people who flush strange things down the toilet – the sewerage effluent has not changed as the result of a so called construction period. The difference is that there must be competent people to handle these problems” he said.
According to Roux they learned through experience that there are a few essential things that need to be done in order for a town’s sewerage system to work properly.
“The lines need to be dragged every day of the week. This means that all sewerage lines must be inspected and all obstructions like sand and tree roots must be removed. It was previously referred to as a pig system, which ensured that the lines were kept clean. If there was a problem, it got reported immediately. Man holes and lines were all numbered, so that the problem could be reported. If the lines are not dragged the sewerage pushes up through the manholes – which is what is currently happening all over town” he said.
“Secondly all “crusts” must be removed. The “crust” is the hard layer that forms on top of the sewerage. Previously it was the practice that a vehicle was sent out every day to remove this “crust”.
The sewerage and sand later form a thick layer which is called the “grit”. If sand is not regularly removed from the pump station, then the pump is not going to last. In the case of Pump Station 23 the sand is not removed, so every new pump will in all likelihood immediately trip and burn out. The grit and sewerage sludge is meters deep” says Roux.
According to Roux, Telemetry is also a system that no longer exists. This ensured that every pump station could be monitored. If a pump station flooded or if a problem arose then an alarm or light went off signalling an emergency.
“In addition the river sand is infected and thus cannot be used in construction” said Roux.
Tienie du Plessis, then superintendent of water at the Lephalale Municipality, says he was part of the cleaning team that literally went from one hole to the other to empty them by pump and remove the crust. There was also an amp meter so that they could immediately see if the amps were too high, then the pump was switched off and pulled out so they could establish what had caused the blockage. The pump would be replaced after the fault was repaired. Du Plessis says before he left the municipality he handed over all the information that he had gathered over all the years, to his successor.
Last week an excavator was off loaded at Pump Station 23 and all the supply pipes from the town were pulled out. The water line in the sewage hole was also pulled out by a contractor appointed by the municipality.
The greatest concern is actually the fact that they are not playing open cards with the public. “There has never been any notification published to warn the public about catching fish in the Mokolo River, swimming in the river or using the water – because of the sewerage spilling into the river” said both Roux and Botha.
“The expertise required to sort this problem is available in the town but is being ignored despite the constitution” says Botha.
On Wednesday morning Wynand Botha had an appointment with Lawrence Thlako at Pump Station 23. He wanted to adress the matter that, what he described as the main sewer line that should run directly to Pump Station 23, was opened by contractors and redirected to the river. The sewage is thus now running permanently into the Mokolo River.
Mogol Post joined Botha and a representative sent by Thlako assured Botha that the “situation will be fixed within the next two weeks”. He said the problem is that the new pumps are not functioning due to the solid materials. He said that a screen is the only solution. He promised that there will be no sewage flowing into the river once the pumps are functioning properly. While Mogol Post and Botha were waiting for Thlako, the contractors started to erect shaded net so that their operations would not be visible to the public.
The question remains – who is going to be responsible for the rehabilitation of the Mokolo River?