eThekwini flooded with sewage due to treatment plant failure

  • Over 700 million liters of untreated sewage is discharged into eThekwini’s rivers, dams and oceans every day.
  • The public health risk increases as levels of E. coli rise.
  • Water experts and political parties have questioned the efficiency of water sample tests.
  • The two wastewater treatment processes collectively release 461 million liters of effluent directly into the ocean every day.

eThekwini Municipality’s decision to reopen several beaches that have been closed due to persistently high levels of E. coli, has been called into question by water experts, Democratic Alliance and ActionSA.

Municipal spokesperson Msawakhi Maisila last week advertiser The decision to reopen beaches in Durban is due to improved water quality standards.

“Recent water tests conducted by experts have confirmed that the beach water is at an acceptable level for recreational activities,” Maisella stated.

But this week, ActionSA eThekwini caucus leader Alan Beasley said E. coli readings at Country Club Beach were more than double what is considered a “critical” E. coli level.

“Recent readings from Talbot, an independent laboratory taken on November 3, 2022 show that a Country Club beach had an E. coli level of 1,267 CFU/100ml. With the critical level for E. coli being 500 CFU/100ml, this beach should have been Paisley stated that it is closed to beachgoers, but remains open.

ActionSA’s statement followed the DA’s statement. Last week, DA ward counselor Sukhil Munjadi accused the municipality dishonesty. With 17 of the 23 major sewage pumping stations still not operating, Mengadi said, eThekwini is putting people’s lives at risk by opening up beaches.

“My advice to residents is to stay off the beaches so that independent testing can verify the city’s claims. Treat all information on this as unverified so that independent scientists can provide unbiased reports.”

Benoit Le Roy, a wastewater management expert with 40 years of experience, and executive director of the South African Water Chamber, told GroundUp that there has long been a question about the efficiency of water sample collectors and the testing process.

In September, the Daily Maverick reported Contradictions With sewage pollution levels reported by the municipality.

Le Roy also questioned the qualifications of the companies used to collect and test water samples, and said the public should be transparent on the matter.

Read | Several KZN beaches reopened due to ‘improved water quality’

“The entire chain of custody must be carried out by independent authorized persons,” he said.

Beaches that opened last week included Point, uShaka, Addington, South, Wedge, North, Bay of Plenty, Battery, Country Club, Brighton, Reunion, Pipeline, Toti Main and Warner beaches.

Westbrook, Bronze, Laguna, Thekwini, uMhlanga, uMdloti and uMgababa beaches remain closed.

Data from the Department of Water and Sanitation Integrated organized information system (IRIS) reveals that out of 14 municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, 10 (71%) regularly fail to comply with minimum wastewater treatment standards. The DWS rated them as “poor” (achieving compliance less than 50% of the time) or “poor” (compliance with minimum sanitation standards between 50% and 70% of the time). Untreated and partially treated sewage is released directly into the rivers of KwaZulu-Natal and, in some cases, directly into the ocean.

According to the DWS, in eThekwini, 75% of the 27 wastewater treatment plants it operates fail to treat effluents to minimum standards. They have the capacity to release 761 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage into rivers and oceans, every day.

The DWS shows two wastewater treatment processes, Central and Southern, that have the capacity to release 461 million liters of effluent directly into the ocean per day. Both comply with 0% microbiological treatment, which is an indicator for E. coli and other fecal bacteria.

Le Roy said these numbers should worry public health officials who should hold relevant departments to account and look for immediate solutions to rehabilitation.

Nationwide, billions of liters of untreated and partially treated wastewater was issued in the environment daily. “The government has not discussed this, as far as I know, as it would be seen as a clear admission of guilt, which it will be,” he said.

With untreated and partially treated sewage flowing through the river to which it is discharged Dams from which drinking water is extractedA very real threat, Le Roy said, is that unsafe drinking water finds its way into piped water.

In August, 38-year-old Rashni Baijnath died after suffering from severe diarrhoea, believed to be caused by drinking contaminated water from a tap in Maryanhill. eThekwini . Municipality Tell The Daily Maverick said the water “does not meet acceptable standards for human consumption”. Again, I asked residents to boil water for a minute before eating or cooking it.

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coli can also be ingested through the respiratory tract. Gastrointestinal complications such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting may appear.

“Zero water treatment plants in South Africa, with the exception of Ballito (north of Durban) and Beaufort West (in the Western Cape), are designed to treat partially treated wastewater. So the very real possibility is that the population is poisoned by drinking water distribution networks (eg taps) presents a real threat that does not receive requisite urgency.”

eThekwini Municipality acknowledged the sewage problem at a media conference late last month, when Mayor Mxulese Kaunda said 460 million rand was needed to repair water treatment plants and pumping stations. On October 27, the municipality released a video Briefly summarize some of the challenges faced by the sanitation infrastructure during the April floods.

But Anthony Turton, a professor at the University of the Free State of Environmental Management, said the floods could not be blamed alone because a lack of maintenance and skilled technicians over time allowed sewage treatment plants to deteriorate.

This is confirmed by historical data on the DWS, which shows that during 2021 the overall compliance rate of eThekwini wastewater treatment works was 54.5% for microbiological indicators and 68.5% for chemical compliance, which relates to the presence of nitrates and phosphates in the treated wastewater. The DWS classifies each of these levels of compliance as “weak”.

The DWS did not respond to questions seeking clarity regarding levels of E. coli in KZN and to identify the threat to public health.

Methodology for calculating the volume of untreated wastewater in Equini:

  • There are 27 sewage treatment plants listed in the municipality.
  • We have added a production capacity for each plant of 842,840 thousand liters per day.
  • Then we added together all the stations with a bad to bad rating, 21 in total, which amounted to 760,540.000 liters of improperly treated wastewater discharged into receiving environments daily.

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