CITY’S WASTEWATER IN A CRITICAL STATE – REPORT
The wastewater systems in Polokwane are in a critical state and this situation has compelled the Regulator in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to place the city on its enforcement priority list.
This was revealed in the recently published Green Drop Report of the department that focuses on waste water management. “The regulator is concerned about the critical state of all wastewater systems in Polokwane and places the municipality on the enforcement priority list. A capital project was implemented at the Polokwane Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTWs), but no information was made available to the regulator - the Green Drop score of 31% and Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) score of 15% does not suggest a positive impact. Municipal leadership must take note of this status and direct urgent attention to address this situation,” the report reflects.
The city’s Green Drop status was 38% in 2009, progressing to 67% and 65% in 2011 and 2013 respectively, but then the regression came and the Green Drop score of 32% in 2021 came as a shock.
According to the Very Rough Order of Measurement (Vroom) impression reached by the department, screening and degritting are not operational, only one Personal Safety and Social Responsibility Training (PST) is in operation, secondary treatment is not optimal and chlorination equipment are not functioning.
The Vroom estimate towards restoring functionality is over R68,8m.
According to the report, process control and quality control resources are available, including an internal laboratory. Samples are taken and analysed on a weekly basis but does not influence any process control.
The maintenance and operational defects result in non-compliance of final effluent quality at all systems, with dire consequences to the waterways and communities of Polokwane. The regulator is concerned about the overall poor state of wastewater services at Mankweng and Seshego and the consequential impact on respective water resources. “Polokwane Local Municipality did not meet the expectations of the Regulator. The Green
Drop score of 31% shows a steep decline in wastewater performance since 2011. All three systems are in high and critical risk positions,” the regulator stated and added that sewer inspection reports were not on standard or used to inform a preventative maintenance plan.
The regulator found that the municipality has in-house maintenance supplemented by four maintenance contracts.
“This management strategy does not translate to preventative maintenance, resulting in frequent equipment failures for extended periods of time. This is particularly evident at the Polokwane treatment works where only half of the installed capacity is available to treat the wastewater entering the plant,” the report reflects.
“The best start to a turnaround would be to assign a technically strong manager to oversee maintenance and operational plans, to upskill the existing staff, and to ensure that basic flow and qualities are being monitored and used to improve compliance. A Process Audit and W2RAP for each system would be a practical way to move forward, with emphasis on the implementation of corrective measures of the highest risks. It is imperative to include the financial department in such a project to ensure the successful execution thereof. The technical department should also take full ownership of their wastewater business by doing a complete cost determination to influence future budgets and financial planning,” the department advised.
DA Polokwane Spokesperson on Water and Sanitation, Johan Retters said that the DA noted the Green Drop Report with concern.
“We will be proceeding with our oversight visits and submit written questions to the council on the turnaround strategy in this regard. We will advocate for clear action plans and timelines from the municipality.
“The steep decline in the Green Drop score from 65% in 2013 to a critical score of 31% in 2021 is not good news for the residents of Polokwane who are already suffering from current water and sanitation challenges,” Retters reckoned.
Attempts to source comment from the Polokwane Municipality at the time of going to print were unsuccessful, but the response will be published in due time.