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Water Minister Senzo Mchunu worried about deteriorating wastewater treatment systems

Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu said they are dealing with the sewerage system crisis in the country. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu said they are dealing with the sewerage system crisis in the country. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 14, 2023

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Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has raised alarm about the deteriorating state of sewerage systems in the country and hopes the intervention measures they are implementing will alleviate the situation.

He said the national department would continue to support municipalities to avoid sewer spillages.

Municipalities have to follow compliance procedures to prevent sewer spillages.

Mchunu said the latest Green Drop report has painted a gloomy picture about the state of sewerage systems in the country.

In the report it was found that almost half of the wastewater treatment plants were functioning. It found that out of 850 wastewater treatment plants, 334 were in a critical state.

Late former minister of water affairs Edna Molewa said almost 10 years ago that the country would need more than R300 billion to fix wastewater treatment plants.

Molewa had complained that municipalities were not using their infrastructure grants to upgrade water treatment plants, but they were diverting these funds to other projects.

She had said the government had to start investing in the maintenance and upgrade of wastewater treatment plants to prevent a crisis in the future.

Mchunu, who was replying to a written parliamentary question from EFF MP Thembi Msane, said they were working with municipalities to ensure municipalities comply with norms and standards.

However, they were concerned about the deterioration of this infrastructure resulting in sewer spillages.

“Although the Water Services Authorities have a duty to maintain a safe environment that is not harmful to people by managing and maintaining the sewerage systems and resolving sewer spillages into the environment, the state of sewerage systems is generally deteriorating, as shown in the 2023 Green Drop Report.

“The Department of Water and Sanitation is also compelled by the Constitution to support municipalities and intervene where there is non-compliance with the compulsory national norms and standards,” said Mchunu.

“The department of water and sanitation has developed the Water Services Improvement Programme to guide, support and strengthen interventions measures that address the decline in water and sanitation services in municipalities. The Water Services Improvement Plan will be implemented within the existing legislative framework and regulations,” said Mchunu.

Mchunu said they will issue more comprehensive norms and standards for water services to ensure compliance.

They will also develop intervention measures in the department.

But the most critical area was to ensure compliance by municipalities.

The fact that the department supports municipalities did not mean they will not monitor them.