The eThekwini Municipality has defended its decision to “hand over” some of its embattled wastewater treatment plants affected by the floods to uMngeni-uThukela Water Board, saying this is not an “admission” that it is failing to deal with repairs.
It said the move is about procuring extra capacity from a fellow government entity to ensure that the repairs to the wastewater treatment plants are fast-tracked.
The water board has entered into an initial 12-month contract with the eThekwini metro for the operation and maintenance of some of the plants that were affected by the April 2022 floods.
The agreement, the metro said in a statement during a media briefing on Tuesday, became effective from November 15 and will see the water board involved in the operation of 10 wastewater treatment works that handle more than 90% of the total wastewater generated by the City.
The plants suffered extensive damage in the floods and started leaking sewage into rivers and streams, to the ire of residents.
Deputy city manager for trading services in the municipality, Sibusiso Makhanya, said the City has the capacity to address the problem, but it would take much longer and has sourced extra capacity from uMngeni-uThukela water board.
UMngeni-uThukela has the capacity and skill to undertake this exercise as it already manages wastewater plants for other municipalities, such as the Darvill wastewater plant in Msunduzi.
Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said he expected the performance of these plants to improve.
“We are happy to report that, to date, uMngeni-uThukela Water has completed a conditional assessment of the wastewater infrastructure at the 10 wastewater works.
“It is implementing an urgent programme to restore compliance going into the festive season, Kaunda said.
“We have dispatched technical teams from both uMngeni-uThukela Water and eThekwini who have already started working together on identified projects to improve compliance.
“The delivery of necessary chemicals, integration of monitoring and laboratory analyses are expected to be completed by this coming Friday, December 1,” he said.
He said the compliance levels at the 10 wastewater works were expected to start improving by the first week of December. The projects that have been prioritised include:
- Rehabilitation and putting back into operation uMhlanga wastewater works, which last operated before the 2022 floods (this will reduce the flow to Ohlange pump station).
- Rehabilitation and recommissioning of Northern Works to improve the effluent quality.
- Fixing the raw wastewater pipeline (at Giba Gorge) to uMhlatuzana wastewater works, which will see the recommissioning of the other half of the wastewater works.
- Reseeding of Phoenix wastewater works, which will improve compliance.
- The rest of the wastewater works that will be undergoing rehabilitation include KwaMashu, uMbilo, Isipingo, eManzimtoti, Central and Southern wastewater works.
Kaunda also touched on the water quality at the beaches, saying while the situation was fluid and could change, the latest results were positive and the beaches will be opened for the festive season, but added that the priority is the safety of tourists.
ActionSA leader Zwakele Mncwango said for the water entity to be managing operations was an admission that the City does not have the capacity to fix the wastewater plants.
“The City is accepting that they are failing to fix the infrastructure.”
The party is locked in a legal battle with the metro over these facilities after it complained they were leaking sewage into rivers and streams.
“The fact that they brought in uMngeni shows they are failing. uMngeni Water is supposed to provide us with water and not to maintain infrastructure. Giving away our responsibility shows the City accepts that they have no capacity and no plan,” he said.
DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa said: “This is a further indication that eThekwini Municipality is unable to manage its infrastructure, which is why the DA is calling for the dissolution of the municipality so that the residents of eThekwini can get a chance to elect new capable leadership, preferably the DA.”