NEARLY two-thirds of the Eastern Cape’s sewage works posed a "severe risk" to public health, according to the latest Green Drop Report released yesterday.
On the operational performance of the province’s 123 wastewater treatment plants, it describes 70 as being in a "critical state", while a further 20 have delivered a "very poor performance".
It notes that 50 of the region’s sewage plants have been classified as "high risk", and another 29 as a "critical risk" to local water resources and public health.
"Unfortunately, the higher-risk positions are still occupied as a predominant feature of the Eastern Cape (64% of the plants ), indicating that a severe risk is still imposed on public health and the environment."
The report calls for renewed efforts to "compel" plants to improve their standards. The nine "critical risk" municipalities that have been "placed under regulatory surveillance" are, in order of the risk they pose to public health: OR Tambo district municipality; Blue Crane Route local municipality; Baviaans local municipality; Ndlambe local municipality; Chris Hani district municipality; Alfred Nzo district municipality; Kou-Kamma local municipality; Joe Gqabi- Ukuhahlamba district municipality; and Camdeboo local municipality.
The Eastern Cape is not the only province where alarm bells are ringing over sewage treatment.
In its risk assessment of Limpopo’s 67 wastewater treatment plants, 52 of which are in a "critical state", the report says the findings paint a "bleak picture" for the region. "Only four plants in the entire Limpopo still reside in low and medium- risk space, with all other 63 plants in the high and critical risk landscape.
"The trend is beyond disquieting and raises serious regulatory alarms."
The report calls for a "different strategy and turnaround plan for the province" if it is to recover from "this atrocious state" .
Speaking at a media briefing yesterday afternoon, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the situation in SA’s poorer provinces was of great concern to her.
"I am actually concerned, as political head, that we still have in SA … a situation where some of the municipalities are still struggling to get to a level of accounting on the quality of water … in the Eastern Cape, in Limpopo, and in other poorer provinces." The Green Drop Report was intended to reduce this risk.
"We really need to do a lot … it’s a very great concern for us," she said.
Earlier, she told journalists that the department had initiated several "processes" to support municipalities that were struggling, including the establishment of a "rapid response team" to tackle critical problems.
Further planned interventions included the roll-out by her department of the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant and the Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme.