Estuary plan showing positive results

Knysna moves in right direction

The upgrading of the Knysna Waste Water Treatment works has helped reduce pollution into the estuary.
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The implementation of the Knysna Estuary Pollution Action Plan is well underway and is starting to show positive results.

Knysna municipal manager, Lauren Waring (also the chairperson of the Knysna Estuary Pollution Control Task Committee), said several projects within the plan were completed while on-going programmes were starting to successfully reduce contamination into the lagoon.  

“The action plan addresses three main sources of pollution into the estuary: the sewer network including the waste water treatment works (WWTW), polluted river systems that run through informal settlements into the estuary, and the storm water network, which has illegal connections to the sewer network,” Waring said.

Specific projects have been tied to each of the three causes.

The municipality’s R68 million plan to save the lagoon, was set in motion earlier this year after long negotiations, planning and proposals to restore the lagoon to its former glory.

“The long-awaited upgrade of the WWTW is nearing completion.

"The first phase, which included the installation of superior mechanical and electrical equipment, is very near completion and is already delivering excellent results.

"The second phase, which includes sludge de-watering equipment, is expected to be completed in May at which time the plant will meet operating standards in terms of the National Water Act," said Waring.

Other sewer-related projects that have been completed include the upgrade of three critical pump stations and the removal of sludge in the eastern wetland at George Rex Drive.

A call for proposals for the removal of fat from fat traps is in process.

Local estuary expert, Prof. Brian Allanson, said he was impressed by the quality of the effluent that now left the treatment works.  

“The current Knysna Municipality has done more towards protecting the Knysna lagoon than any other in recent history,” Allanson said.

SanParks area manager for Knysna, Andre Riley, said the situation at the WWTW has experienced a complete turn-around from an unreliable, high contamination risk in August 2011 to producing probably the cleanest effluent ever to leave the sewer works.

Eden District Municipality’s assistant head for health services in Knysna, James McCarthy, said the co-operative approach between different government departments and agencies has enabled improved methods of caring for the estuary.

However, a change in mindset and actions of every person who works, lives and plays in Knysna is needed to ensure that the government does not just continue to clean up after everyone.

“It is time that people start taking responsibility for their waste and discard of its responsibly, and for individuals to hold each other accountable for what goes into the lagoon," said McCarthy.

The town’s ‘river health programme’ is starting to show tangible results as especially river clean-ups are reducing the concentration of pollution that flows into the estuary.

The programme – which enjoys support and funding from the Department of Environmental Affairs, South African National Parks and Eden District Municipality – concentrates its efforts on the river catchment areas of the Khayalethu, Bongani and Bigai Rivers.

This programme also incorporates environmental education, provision of proper waste disposal facilities and improved weekly waste collection to reduce dumping of waste into rivers.

The installation of communal flushing toilets in informal areas are being completed and a gravity outfall sewer is currently being laid through Nekkies, Dam-se-Bos and Hlalani to reduce the use of ‘long drop’ toilets, which are a major contributor to underground river contamination.

Waring said regular water samples have been taken in the rivers since the beginning of the programme and the quality of the water was already improving.

“We consider the cleaning of rivers essential to the health of the estuary and an ongoing project, which we hope to sustain with the financial assistance of the national Department of Environmental Affairs,” McCarthy said.

The establishment of floating wetlands in river systems will be going on tender shortly.

The major storm water-related project, in which a property-to-property inspection of all storm water and sewerage lines will be made to identify and map illegal connections, will start soon.

“The municipality remains confident that the necessary funds for all its projects will be sourced from the wide range of departments and agencies that have a vested interest in the preservation of one of the town, region and country’s most important resources, which is the Knysna lagoon,” Waring said.             

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Issue 68