Legal action has been taken against the Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality in the Chris Hani District Municipality, the Eastern Cape, to force it to stop polluting the Great Fish River, the Department of Water and Sanitation has confirmed.
"The waste water treatment works at Cradock is non-functional and all that is done is [to] add some chlorination to the effluent. Some settling of solids occur in the tanks, but this results in an untreated overflow to the Great Fish River," department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said in a statement.
"The matter is now being handled at a higher level to resolve the problem."
Ratau said the department's Eastern Cape region first issued a directive to the waste water treatment works in October 2016 to stop the pollution and rehabilitate the affected area.
"The Chris Hani District Municipality submitted an action plan which was not approved as it did not adhere to the requirements of the directive. Two more notices were issued in mid-2018 to submit an action plan with immediate action to address the current status of the non-compliance with the waste water treatment works. No response from the municipality was received," Ratau said.
On April 3 this year, the regional office referred the matter to the compliance, monitoring and enforcement unit at its national office for the application of a court interdict.
The unit was awaiting outstanding reports, which are expected by Wednesday.
The full application documents would be with the department's legal services by the end of the week to approach the state attorneys, Ratau said.
"This process ... shows that contrary to the general belief that the department has been inactive with regard to the pollution, action has been underway primarily as per the prescripts of the inter-governmental relations framework, as well as allowing for an opportunity to the transgressor to remedy it."
An environmental inspector dispatched by the department confirmed that the water treatment works had completely shut down.
"There is not a single municipal employee at the plant and the only people present on site were two security guards. Waste water continues to flow into the non-functional plant, but is then channeled, untreated, into the Great Fish River," Ratau said.
"The problems at the plant are mechanical in nature, as most of the pumps and all the brush aerators are dysfunctional. As a result of the waste water treatment plant and pump stations being non-operational, raw sewage is also being discharged at different places along the sewer lines, most notably out of manholes."
It appeared that the plant had been in this state for a number of weeks, prior to recent electricity cuts for non-payment and public unrest, Ratau said.