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Aging infrastructure, lack of technical expertise leading causes of malfunctioning of wastewater treatment plants across the country.’

Aging infrastructure and a lack of technical expertise in municipalities are the leading causes of the malfunctioning of wastewater treatment plants across the country.

This is according to the National Water and Sanitation Department. It says municipalities also need to use their budgets efficiently to enable them to manage plants that are incapable of processing large quantities of sewage.

Poorly maintained water treatment plants cause havoc in many municipalities across the country.

In Letsopa location in Ottosdal, near Lichtenburg in the North West, sewage spills from the drains to the streets.

Residents say they have had to endure the stench of raw sewage daily since 1998. They say the smell intensified in 2015 leading to increased illnesses.

Isaac Mogale’s house is surrounded by a lake of raw sewage. He says he has had to relocate his two children to his parents’ home because the stench is unbearable.

“I have taken my children away because of the smell because I do not want them to be affected by the sewer. Besides, when I am in my house I cannot open the doors even when I cooked I cannot enjoy the food. If I want to eat I have to go home because I cannot enjoy food here.”

Residents say they have made multiple appeals to the municipality for assistance but nothing has been done.

The national government allocated the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality over R8.5 million from the COVID-19 relief fund for the refurbishment of water treatment plants, including the ageing plant in Ottosdal. However, there have been no refurbishments.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Technical Services in the municipality, Gilbert Mathakathaka, says the problems will soon be addressed.

“We have put out a tender to outsource the maintenance and the operation of the plant. Remember, even our plants are not operated by qualified people because of the bloated staff that we used to have. So, we were just having people to operate and be trained by the contractor while on site. But now, we have outsourced it. I think two months down the line we’ll have a proper service provider who will operate water treatment plants around Ngaka Modiri Molema.”

The Water and Sanitation Department says such inefficiencies in local government hamper the delivery of basic services. The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, says municipalities need to be better managed.

“Ailing infrastructure; the lack of operation and maintenance; the lack of technical expertise within the municipalities; the lack of financial expertise because remember in order for some these operations to happen you need to manage your budget well, that goes with it. Therefore, that is also a matter that impacts upon the operations and maintenance of water treatment plant.”

Residents say they intend to approach the South African Human Rights Commission to seek assistance on the matter.

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