Sewage flowing into Swartkops River an environmental disaster
10 March 2015
Note to editors: These are remarks made by the DA Shadow Minister of Environmental Affairs, Thomas Hadebe MP following an oversight visit to Swartkops River in the Eastern Cape today.
I will today write to the Environmental Management Inspectors (“Green Scorpions”) requesting that they institute an investigation into the continued environmental degradation at the Swartkops River, in Port Elizabeth.
This follows an oversight visit undertaken today by myself, DA Nelson Mandela Bay Caucus Leader, Cllr. Retief Odendaal, and other Nelson Mandela Bay DA Councillors.
We inspected the site where 192 mega-litres (millions of litres) of sewage has spewed into the river – at a rate of 20 to 30 litres of sewage a second – since the municipal sewage pipes burst, 15 weeks ago. It is the duty of a municipality to operate and maintain their services infrastructure in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. The failure of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality in this regard has led to rapid deterioration of assets, followed by catastrophic component failure, and regular and prolonged disruptions in service delivery.
Quite simply this has been a dereliction of duty on the Municipality’s part.
We started at the top of the Markman Canal and followed it downstream where the sewage pipe from Motherwell flows parallel to the Canal for a stretch of 1km. There are 13 holes in the pipe along this stretch directly affecting the community of Alose. A three-year-old toddler was recently rushed to a doctor after drinking the river water.
In Swartkops, Motherwell and Uitenhage I engaged with residents who expressed their disgust at the lack of government action and accountability in the face of their suffering. After failing repeatedly to get help at nearby clinics, six residents were assisted by medical staff on board the Phelophepa health train.
The 15-week-long sewage spill into the Swartkops River is enough to fill 76 Olympic-sized swimming pools. More than 1 300 residents have signed a petition asking Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, to intervene.
The Zwartkops Conservancy have previously laid criminal charges against five municipal officials – case no. 254/112012 – and nothing has come of this. I will therefore be submitting parliamentary questions as to the progress of this investigation.
The ANC governed Nelson Mandela Bay Metro municipality has been dreadfully silent throughout this human and environmental disaster.
Residents have been waiting to hear whether the municipality is planning a clean-up operation and have demanded that the municipality publish the results of water tests so that they can know when the river will be safe again.
The DA will continue to monitor this situation very closely and use all mechanisms at our disposal to achieve acceptable living conditions for the residents on the bank of the Swartkops River.
Statement issued by Thomas Hadebe MP, DA Shadow Minister of Environmental Affairs, March 10 2015
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