BUFFALO City Metro (BCM) pumps about 29 million cubic metres of effluent into surrounding rivers and the ocean every year .
Effluent can range from partially treated waste water to raw sewage.
This was raised as a matter of concern in a 2012 status report on the Amatole Water Supply System Reconciliation Strategy.
The Amatole Water Supply System (AWSS) supplies water to BCM, and the strategy is a partnership between various government stakeholders.
The report says that of 13 waste water treatment works in the AWSS, seven BCM-run works discharge waste into rivers downstream of dams or directly into the ocean.
Less than 1% of waste water is re-used, and this goes mostly to golf courses, according to a newsletter released by the Department of Water Affairs (DWA).
BCM was credited as having the best ‘Greendrop’ score in the province last year, despite receiving scores of between 20% and 48% for waste water quality compliance for most of their waste water treatment works.
The Greendrop programme was initiated by the DWA as an incentive for municipalities to improve their waste water treatment works.
Municipal waste treatment works are scored on their monitoring programmes and the quality of the waste water discharged, among others.
The Greendrop programme monitors the quality of waste water, as opposed to the Bluedrop programme that monitors the quality of drinking water.
Only two BCM waste water treatment works – the East Bank and West Bank – received Greendrop certificates in 2011. They had a water quality compliance of 72% and 88%.
The West Bank waste water treatment works and other waste water discharges at Hood Point, which was 96% compliant with quality standards, according to BCM spokesperson Thandy Matebese.
But despite this supposed high compliance score, a large algal bloom around Hood Point is visible using Google Maps.
The head technician at the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology at Rhodes University (EBRU), David Render, said the algal bloom was an indication of high nutrient levels in the water, possibly as a result of nutrient-rich sewage from the Hood Point discharge. He explained that while the algal bloom could be harmless, some algal blooms are toxic to sea animals and potentially to humans.
Results taken from various discharge points around BCM between January and June 2012 were non-compliant for bacterial levels, according to the strategy status report. The report indicated that the levels were too high, or “poor” (in terms of compliance).
The King William’s Town, Bhisho, Potsdam, Mdantsane, Berlin and Nahoon Dam discharge points were found to have high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, which indicates a possible contamination with viruses and bacteria.
Some waterborne pathogenic diseases include typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis and hepatitis A. The presence of faecal contamination is an indicator that a potential health risk exists for individuals exposed to this water.
BCM has been trying to sort out sanitation problems since 2005, when a report cited the health risks posed by poor sanitation systems.
“Many, if not all, treatment works show significant non- compliance with effluent quality discharge permit requirements ,” reads the report.
It also cites poor sanitation as the cause of a BCM hepatitis A outbreak in 2004. — email@example.com