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Hennops crisis meetings and their outcomes

by Willem Snyman

Hennops crisis meetings and their outcomes by Willem Snyman

“On April 3, 2019 numerous discussions were held to improve the very bad current state of the Hennops River.

We first met with Melanie Volschenk from Jean Crossing, they are becoming one of our partners at the cleanup events, and they want to work towards becoming a green shopping centre.

Next, we met with Aesha Laher from AHL water, who has just finished an independent Green Drop audit at the Olifantsfontein Wwtw. She explained the current challenges at the works and showed us photos of sludge completely blocking channels and tanks. The main problems here are still the inoperative expensive new upgrade where the primary settling tank (PST) was built on a sink hole due to an improper geological survey.  High leves of industrial effluent flowing in are also a big factor. We looked at the excellent DWS IRIS website where much information on water quality and river monitoring can be found. It was shocking seeing that the effluent of Hartebeesfontein Wwtw - the flagship of ERWAT that flows into the Rietvlei and a source of Centurion's drinking water - has deteriorated and the effluent is not much better than Olifantsfontein Wwtw.

Afterwards I met with Marion Mengel, WESSA friends group advisor, about formalising a Friends of the Hennops River group. This will legitimise our position, ease working relationships with Tshwane and other authorities and help attract funding for restoration projects. It was decided to hold two public meetings after the upcoming cleanups at Lewende Woord on Saturday the 13th at 14:00 and Sunday the 14th at 13:00 to start the process to get the group and steering committee together. Please come and join this group - the poor, struggling Hennops needs all its friends now to come together and help to save it,  clean riparian areas, restore and revive its riverine life.

Next I met with Karla Jooste on the rivebanks at Lewende Woord to finalise our upcoming cleanup there. In this large, still natural area, the state of the Hennops is shocking. There is a huge amount of plastic washed up and stuck in branches, vast amounts of invasive alien trees, shrubs and weeds as well as very high levels of water pollution, foaming and stinking.

Hennops crisis meetings and their outcomes by Willem Snyman

To try and solve the massive  solid waste problem of plastics being swept down over a 100 kilometers we want to implement a litter trap. A site meeting was held at the ARC weir with Tshwane chief engineer Gerrie Jansen van Vuuren,  Jonathan Kreuzenkamp our engineer and Anton Bailey from Bluswirl (to remove the waste), Amanda Jacobs (who proposed the site location) and more parties forming an action group to make this happen. This site looks very promising, a solid old concrete structure with stepped sluice gates where the waste can be channelled and caught, perhaps on screens to be deposited on an existing concrete slab from where it can be removed. We'd like to start with experimental models here soon, hopefully the many affected parties downstream, like the golf courses and businesses can all contribute towards the design, implementation and upkeep of the litter trap.We'll organise a cleanup event here when the traps are ready, to clean the blocked sluice gates and clean the site for the installation of the traps.

Even more shocking at this site than the vast accumulation of rubbish is the massive volume of foam, man high in places where it is churned up behind this weir, accompanied by an awful stench.

Hennops crisis meetings and their outcomes by Willem Snyman

The foam comes mostly from the improperly treated effluent of the Olifantsfontein Wwtw, a few kilometers upstream. Hopefully something can be done soon to mitigate this long standing source of pollution in the river, ongoing for many years now. Leaking ewerage infrastructure in upstream Tembisa adds to this problem. 

We need to take our rivers back, they belong to the people and to nature. The high levels of toxins discharged into this natural freshwater system is completely unacceptable. The water is being used for drinking and irrigation, flowing all the way into the Hartebeespoort Dam and Limpopo. Nourishing large natural areas while flowing through declared nature reserves.”

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