Rubbish in parts of Roodeplaat dam. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)
Rubbish in parts of Roodeplaat dam. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

Farmers, fishermen complain about pollution in Tshwane rivers, dams

By Goitsemang Tlhabye Time of article published Mar 1, 2021

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Pretoria - Farmers and fishermen reliant on Tshwane’s rivers for water supply, irrigation and fishing have claimed that the City of Tshwane’s poor management of its sewerage sites continues to rob them of their daily livelihoods.

The residents said this was due to the fact that the water was heavily polluted with debris, alien plants and worst of all, raw sewage.

Farmer Theunis Vogel whose farm is located in Vastfontein, adjacent to the Rooiwal Waste Water Works treatment plant, said since 2015 he had been unable to produce any safe products for human consumption.

He said, however, the problem had started as far back as 2005.

Vogel said since the dark raw sludge was dumped into the nearby dams and wetlands, it had filtered through the ground resulting in him being unable to produce any maize or beans. In fact, he said, he had lost seven crops over the years to the tune of R3 million as a result.

“I took my entire pension money trying to get rid of this stuff and recuperate the soil and I have nothing else to give. By the looks of things, it would take close to 25 years before this is properly addressed”

Vogel said he even enlisted the services of an independent specialist to assess the ground and provide a preliminary report of the degradation of his farm following the regular and severe pollution stemming from Rooiwal.

According to the report, the lands in Vastfontein had undergone degradation due to elevated organic matter present that leads to the presence of organisms including e.coli.

“The viability of crop production is severely curtailed by the physical and chemical constraints posed by the constant water quality pollution challenges. In addition, community health considerations weigh heavily when the health risks of polluted, contaminated and infected produce are taken into account,” it is stated in the report.

Meanwhile, fishermen at Roodeplaat dam said they, too, had noticed the unmistakable stench of sewage filtering through the dam water.

Joe Venter said he had been fishing for 15 years, and came to realise that things were not up to par with the water quality of the dams.

Venter said December time was the worst, as going into the dam to set up his tools or collect his catch for the day, he could immediately smell that they were literally swimming in raw sewage.

“The fish are still here but you would not want to eat them or even try to spend the day out with family near these dams anymore. We know that there is sewage running through here without a shadow of a doubt.”

Venter said he often visited Roodeplaat and the Bon Accord dam, which was the worst by far in terms of pollution and stench.

“This river’s water quality is appalling and I honestly feel sorry for those who catch these fish to eat because they’d have been swimming in our faeces. My only consolation is that we only catch them as a hobby,” said Michael Evans, another fisherman.

Last March, inspectors from the Departmental of Environmental Affairs also found that the City of Tshwane wastewater treatment works were the highest contributor to the pollution of rivers and dams in the capital.

According to the department, they were highly polluted with sewage.

A report compiled by departmental inspectors indicated that metro sites were running (at) overcapacity and often off-line due to cable theft.

They indicated that sites such as Rooiwal, had a plethora of problems, with the Apies River severely affecting the purification capacity of the Temba water treatment plant.

The Baviaanspoort site had, according to the department, also affected the Pienaars River and Roodeplaat Dam, as well as the purification capacity of the Roodeplaat water treatment plant.

The inspectors also found a general lack of compliance with on-site environmental authorisations conditions and licences.

Pretoria News

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