Vaal River suffocates under filthy wave of raw effluent

Published Jul 28, 2018


IT'S THE worst crisis ever for the Vaal River, says Maureen Stewart of Save the Vaal - one that has had an impact on Parys 22km downstream in the Free State.

For more than a month raw sewage has been flowing directly into the Vaal because of mismanagement by the Emfuleni and Ngwathe local authorities.

The river has turned green and scores of dead fish have washed up on its riverbanks in the past week. When some Parys residents opened their taps this week, the water was green and “smelt of dead fish”.

“The sewage crisis along the banks of the Vaal River in Emfuleni is out of control and causing unbearable living conditions for residents,” she said.

It also presents a health risk and an environmental disaster.

"A long history of poor maintenance and lack of infrastructure development to deal with capacity overload has led to the current situation.

“Sewage pollution has flowed downstream beyond Parys. This town relies on water from the Vaal River.

"In addition, the Emfuleni local council does not have funds to put fuel in its vehicles, so maintenance teams cannot conduct regular maintenance and repairs on the extensive sewer network and pump station system in Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark.

"This has resulted in ongoing sewage spills all over, including a river of raw sewage flowing into the Klip and Vaal rivers at Vereeniging.”

“Neither Gauteng nor the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has take action over the past month,” said Stewart.

DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said water samples had been taken in the Vaal this week following the fish kills “so we can know exactly what is causing all of this".

“Based on the outcome, we will then be able to take action against the municipality or whomever we identify as a source.

"Our major concern is that the situation around Emfuleni could be impacting terribly on the state of play.

“This is just gross negligence on a large scale,” remarked Johan Smit, who lives in Parys.

“The impact is 20km to 30km away, in the heart of the Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site.

“The department only jumped on the bandwagon now and took samples this week after the fish started to die.

"They make promises that things will be repaired and then we're back to square one.

“This has been going on and off for more than a decade. Where do we draw the line?” Smit asked.

*See page 8, 13

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