December 2007 - March 2008

Looking back, always in retrospect, it was never because we have little to report on, but there was just too much. This edition of the Wastewater Watch has been rewritten about four times. And the response from each newsletter is proof that many of us do care about our environment, and our function is to pass on information..

Since our last communiqué, we have seen massive fishkill in the eThekwini (Durban) harbour and the Hansa Duzi canoe marathon diarrhea- duzi guts - out break - all due to contamination of human waste. We have also seen an increase in political activity condoning the pollution. We must stress that there is no place for politics in our water. It becomes polluted. And polluted water is good for absolutely nothing, or nobody. (see tailpiece).

Our contact in Finland says that the Nordic countries are worried that their climate change is affecting temperatures, which are normally at minus 10 in winter and are now only minus 3. Our contacts in the UK claim that the spring flowers are already showing bloom. Closer to home, we have had a cactus in our garden for many years, and have noted that each year it blooms for longer. This year has been exceptional, with blossom period lasting nearly three months. Can we suggest that the cactus is looking forward to some really good years?

As an update on the N3 (JHB - KZN route) rest-stops, the Shell Ultra City at Escourt has a full sewage system in place, capable of treating what you leave behind. Also, the N2 Ultra City on the South Coast has proper facilities.

We have had no feed back from the Ladysmith Engen 1-Stop , the Newcastle 1-Stop or the Total Mountain View Petroport system (near Harrismith) which had system failures.

The new Hillcrest upgrades were still not complete by the end of January. As a reminder, these upgrades were paid for by the developer, on condition that he could continue with the estate. Which he has.

Report back - Research

eThekwini (Durban) Metro have informed us that the (R 20 million) Norwegian funded research, was used to partly to develop policy. They, the Norwegians, have a population of some 320 000 systems, as reported, and we believe that the visitors have left with a better understanding on how things should not be done.

The eThekwini Guideline Policy on package plants was a major flop, and a crippling embarrassment to our authorities. National law says "any system could be installed, as long as it worked." Metro added their own rules with their guideline policy, effectively changing the criteria to "any system could be installed as long as it didn't work".

Metro have, yet again, insisted that they are the authors of this policy document, and should now take full responsibility for it's failure.

Mark Ross, of Lilliput wrote - With regard to the state of the waste-management industry in South Africa, Ross believes that, until recently, the industry was fairly self-regulated but with the advent of public environmental awareness putting pressure on developers and institutions to apply some form of treatment, a number of dubious processes have emerged in response to this need. "However, authority intervention (eThekwini ?) is changing this and the future for responsible sound industry participants should be very good," concludes Ross. courtesy Engineering News

And then this item, a CV belonging to a Dr Pieter van Eeden, who was consulted to report on a large development, Le Domaine, in Hillcrest.

He wrote, "This report convinced the Board of Trustees and the developer that the proposed LilliputTM modular package sewage plant was flawed and was not able to support the claims made by the company. "

Note : It was this Le Domaine system that finally led to the moratorium on package plants in the Durban area. (also see Kearsney below) 

Durban Harbour
We are told that the Island View fire was the worst in recent times. Despite what our authorities claim, there was no effective evacuation plans and people were left to fend for themselves. We were told that everything was under control after the fire burnt out. Also that the pollution of the bay was not of serious concern, provided you stay away from the water. This information seemed to miss those that actually live in the harbour, and to the 10 tones of fish, shrimp, barnacles and crabs, well, they just floated. 

And then, those fish that survived were then subject to further pollution in December. City manager, Mike Sutcliffe claimed that industry had caused this and no stone would remain un-turned to find the culprits. The fish kill was quite extensive and prolonged. One Dept of Water Affairs (DWAF) official claimed he had only counted 10 dead fish, (clearly indicating he had not taken his shoes off. Ed) 

The search for the offenders did not last long, probably due to the fact that reports surfaced of sewage pumpstation failures, pipe blockages and sewage treatment facilities throughout the catchment area emitting effluent far from compliant. Based on the Water Quality Management System website, only one of the eThekwini facilities was compliant. And so, the city manager would leave some stones un-turned. And anyway, when there are no more dead fish, the problem has been solved, right ? And then came the scapegoat. A small factory, in the waste industry, appeared on metro's radar, and a claim has been issued for damages of nearly R 1,5 million. The factory is well down stream of the Umbilo works, the Queensburgh works and even further from the Duzi river. Way back in 2003, the package plant industry were blamed for massive pollution, and now appears to be more compliant than those who regulate. 

Who polices the police ? Jackie maybe? Ed 

Durban Beaches
Another Durban beach has lost it's Blue Flag status after human pollution was found in the water, and well timed for the 2007 Christmas holidays. 

In another incident, the Umhlanga beach, listed as Blue Flag, recently had it's doors closed as the contractors painting the new controversial Pearls complex, washed their paint brushes in the stormwater drain, and ended up painting the whole area white.

Misplaced Morals
As any journalist knows, getting the story is always the fun part, and then putting it into words so that it is factual, and interesting requires hard work, long hours, and many spoilt meals. Our reports are often inclusive of all the above. And success is often measured in the responses from those in the spotlight. 

Mark Ross and Neville Nixon, from Lilliput, have, on occasion, queried the Wastewater Watch's motives, claiming all we write is "lies". We have even been accused of tampering with plants to ensure failure. 

Mark and Neville, this is simply not true. Failures have occurred without any help from us. I can assure both learned gents, I have never been to the Ashanti Gold mine in Mali (clarifier failure), nor the Nyoni Islands off Tanzania (tanks collapse). In fact, where we have been consulted (often at no charge), and our recommendations been implemented, system improvements were noted.

As an example, Kearsney College had 'misplaced' their air blowers and aeration was not happening. As it turned out, the school thought the blowers had been stolen and fitted locks to the lids. It appears they had just been misplaced, as one was seen on another Lilliput system just 4 km away at the Langford Country Estate development, also in Hillcrest.

We suggested that they connect their large old rotary blower to a manifold and forget the single units. 

Sorry guys, we modestly offer this deed back to you for claiming. Ed 

Water Awards
Finally, we have found it appropriate to acknowledge those leaders that have made the most impact on our water. While this has to be a difficult task to nominate special people, it was made a lot easier considering the almost unrelenting recent public concerns. The Durban harbour pollution and the Duzi marathon (see above) opened the gates to a really seedy side of our society. Sewer pipes left unrepaired for months, regular overflows from municipal systems and a caravan park near a river (nick-named Blood River as this is often the colour) with a health hazard warning sign. Promised that no stone would be unturned, obviously was a political move and was not meant to be taken seriously.

Therefore, we nominate Neil Macleod, eThekwini's head of water and sanitation, as water polluter of the year and in doing so would be in line for the annual Fish-Kill award.

Thanks to Michelle and Gary for getting this one to us.


Ian Player, renowned conservationist and founder of the Duzi marathon, was asked how he would know when the pollution stopped.

He replied, "When we see fish eagles return."

We hope so, and in his lifetime. Ed


Steve - Wastewater Watch