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A Parliamentary Question (PQ) by the Democratic Alliance (DA) has revealed that between 2018 and 2022, the Department of Water and Sanitation, only completed 48 compliance monitoring audits, inspections, and enforcement actions of wastewater treatment plants in South Africa.
This is despite the Green Drop report of 2022 revealing that there are a total of 955 municipal wastewater systems in the country, of which, 334 were identified as being in a critical state in 2021.
The ANC-led National Government is clearly failing to ensure that residents have access to safe and clean water, a basic human and constitutional right. This failure is further exacerbated by the ongoing loadshedding crisis, making it difficult for municipalities to pump water.
In terms of Section 9 of the National Water Act of 1998, the National Department is responsible for licensing wastewater treatment plants. While the Water Services Act does not make provisions for penalties, the Department is responsible for conducting audits to monitor compliance and implementing enforcement actions to rectify non-compliance with licensing conditions.
Going forward, further questions will be put to Minister Mchunu on the percentage of package sewage plants that are audited and inspected annually, and what action has been taken when plants are non-compliant with directives. Their compliance with their licensing conditions is essential in ensuring that we protect our estuaries as well as the rich biodiversity of our waterbodies, such as Milnerton Lagoon and the Diep River.
The Green Drop report further reveals that in 2021, the Western Cape had the lowest percentage of wastewater systems in critical condition at 11% compared to a staggering 78% in Limpopo.
The City of Cape Town further achieved the second-highest number of Green Drop Certifications, 4 out of the City’s 26 systems, and the most Green Drop Contenders to certification, 8 out of the City’s 26 systems, in the country.
While it is encouraging that the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town are outperforming ANC-led provinces in terms of wastewater management, more needs to be done by the National Department to ensure that all critical wastewater plants are compliant.