Sewage in Blesbokspruit pollutes water

Puddles of sewage water still visible next to the Blesbokspruit after the metro fixed the sewage leak on Friday afternoon.

The metro finally fixed the pipe causing sewage to flow into the Blesbokspruit on Friday afternoon.

“However, the water will still take quite some time to clear at the Ramsar site,” says Patrick Ganda, Blesbokspruit Conservation Centre educator.

Because the area where the sewage was flowing into the Blesbokspruit is in the upper reaches of the Ramsar site, what happens there has an impact along the whole length of the Ramsar site.

Charl van der Merwe, environmentalist and chairman of the Blesbokspruit Conservation Trust, says the metro should have fixed the blockage in the sewage pipe immediately after it was reported two months ago.

A pond at the entrance to the Blesbokspruit is still filled with sewage.

“The pond used to be a hole but about 15 years ago Trust members shaped it to fit in with the landscape and make it more aesthetically acceptable,” he says.

The purpose was to get the storm water from the roads to flow into this pond, and from there into the spruit.

“Instead we had sewage flowing into the pond for the past three months,” says van der Merwe.

He says raw sewage has an immense impact on any environment and even more so on a sensitive wetland.

“Over and above the biological pollution with its health impact on everyone and everything coming into contact with the water, it also has an aesthetically negative impact.

“The foul smell also devalues and degrades the neighbouring community’s sense of well-being,” he says.

He explains the raw sewage causes eutrophication of the water, which causes excessive reed growth, which inhibits the flow of the stream.

Van der Merwe says this causes the stream to spread out and engulf the grassveld ecosystem, leading to an overall loss of viable habitats.

“Decomposing of the organic matter (sewage) is an “oxygen-demanding” process which kills off the benthic fauna.

“This process robs other organisms in the food chain of their food source and causes turbidity of the water with the result that no or little sunlight penetrates the water – with the result that other organisms depending on the sun’s energy also die off,” he says.

The end result is a wetland devoid of any biological activities, according to van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe says the metro previously blamed the sewage problems on illegal miners.

“The concern was raw sewage was flowing into a wetland of international importance and nothing was being done about it – and not the origin of the sewage,” he says.

According to him, Gauteng and probably other provinces as well, will in future experience droughts with flowing rivers, wetlands and dams but the water will be so polluted that it is undrinkable and will not sustain life.

He says the metro shows a lack of concern with regard to the most valuable natural asset in their area of responsibility.

“Legal application and immediate and continuous addressing of all pollution aspects is a must,” says van der Merwe.

No comment had been received from the metro at the time of publishing.

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Anna Robertson

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