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The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) will appoint contractors to unblock sewer systems that flow into the Vaal River.

According to the department, the 18 contractors to be hired on an emergency basis will accelerate the “protracted” seepage of raw sewer into the Vaal River as well as local households in the area, particularly in the Emfuleni Local Municipality.

“This is meant to unlock the sewer system and allow for better flows,” said the DWS in a statement on Monday.

The contractors will be sourced from the DWS and the National Treasury’s central databases.

In addition, some of the service providers will include those that initially conducted work on the system before under the Ekurhuleni Water Care Works’ contract with the department before expiry.

“However, the appointment of the contractors on an emergency basis does not nullify but will run concurrently with the contracts for tenders that were advertised last year.”

The department believes that this intervention is “necessitated” by the lack of operations and maintenance of wastewater infrastructure at local government level, resulting in infrastructure failure.

“The National Treasury is still finalising the main contractors in line with the Cabinet resolution following the South African Human Rights Commission’s findings and recommendations on the spillages.”

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) found that the flow of raw sewage into the Vaal River was a violation of human rights and that it was polluted beyond acceptable standards. 

The Commission launched an inquiry into the state of wastewater treatment in the Vaal River after a report showed that raw sewage had been leaking into and polluting the Vaal River and the Rietspruit Dam for months.

“The impact of the discharge, occurring over more than five years at the time of writing, violated several constitutional rights which include the rights to human dignity, freedom and security of the person, an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being, not to be deprived of property, healthcare, food, water and social security, just administrative action and the rights of children to be protected from maltreatment and degradation,” the report found. 

In the meantime, the department said it was working around the clock to ensure that the issues about the eradication of sewer spillages within communities and Vaal River are addressed through the implementation of several initiatives to tackle the challenge.

“The department wishes to strongly reaffirm its commitment to continue to work resolutely with stakeholders to speed up the resolution of the long-standing sewer pollution of the Vaal River, which will include the refurbishing of wastewater treatment plants, thus enhancing the capacity of the plants and associated pump stations.

“Married to the unblocking of the pipelines will be either refurbishment or even replacement of malfunctioning or ageing infrastructure,” said the department.


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