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A light at the end of the sewage tunnel by Willem Snyman

Updated: Aug 17, 2018

A light at the end of the sewage tunnel

On June 17, to find the source of the constant volumes of raw sewage as, well as the large amount of solid waste polluting the Hennops River, I walked up two tributaries of the Kaalspruit in Ivory Park. These strong perennial streams, emerging from wetlands, originate in springs not very far up, yet they are grey with sewage and their banks filled with litter and plastics.

The one is unfortunately canalised in areas where it flows through dense informal settlements, with children playing in this cement sewage canal. Some leaks were found along the way - and a major one at the top which has been overflowing for a decade - and reported to Johannesburg Water. Luckily there's much activity along these tributaries by Johannesburg Water contractors installing new mains with a much larger diameter which should alleviate many of these longstanding problems.

Rubbish dumping in and along the banks of these streams is still rampant with areas next to bridges serving as communal dump sites. This accumulation of trash is washed down the river during flooding. Instead of installing litter traps downstream, which involve high costs and maintenance, these problems should be addressed at source. Provision of alternative dump sites, like skips, in strategic locations, and education programmes, to foster a culture of respect and appreciation of these amazing natural features, needs to be implemented. Community and school involvement in restoring life to these head waters will reconnect the people with these natural parks to improve the health and environment of these densely populated areas.

Effective Micro-organisms or EM can provide a cost effective way to achieve this showing much success world-wide, often spearheaded by communities themselves. An EM project by Johannesburg parks has been running for several years, with a training centre at Zoo Lake yielding great success in treating this water body. This can be extended to the source areas and along whole rivers. Cleaning and restoring aquatic life will eventually suffuse the whole system - living rivers functioning as gigantic bio-filters to clean our world and protect natural diversity.

In many parks such as Huddle (source area of Jukskei) brewing tanks have been constructed but are not being utilised. To get this system running again will be a cost effective means to revitalise the whole fresh-water system. It's application in the sewerage system will will make Waste Water Treatment Plants much more effective with great savings on power. Dosing EM directly into sewers will pre-treat the waste water and increase capabilities of plants as well as being effective in breaking down complex chemicals and treating and reducing black sludge waste, allowing the formation of rich compost.

Endangered red-data species can flourish again in clean living rivers and open up our largest recreation areas, returning them as parks for walking trails, canoeing and places of natural tranquility as clean bio-diversity corridors through our urban world.

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