Toilet to Tap: IMPACT OF POORLY MAINTAINED WASTEWATER AND SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANTS
The declining state of municipal wastewater and sewage treatment infrastructure in South Africa is one of the largest contributing factors to the numerous pollution problems experienced in most parts of the country and a major contributor to health problems in poor communities, as illustrated by recent outbreaks of cholera. The Mail and Guardian (2004) reported outbreaks of cholera in Delmas, Mpumalanga Province where there were 380 cases of diarrhoea, 30 suspected cases of typhoid fever and nine confirmed cases (7). Also, there were outbreaks of typhoid fever in many parts of South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal, Limpompo and the Transkei (8) with some latest outbreaks occurring in Delmas, Mpumalanga. The outbreak originated in the town’s water supply, suspected to have been contaminated with human faeces. Another incident occurred in the Eastern Cape where 94 patients were treated with diarrhoea symptoms while 18 babies died (9). This incident was ascribed by the UKhahlamba District Municipality to microbiological water quality attributed to sewage spills from catchment based land activities (9). Spillage of untreated sewage also has adverse effects on the environment. For example, in 2008, there were media reports in KwaZulu Natal claiming that large amounts of sewage effluents were being discharged into the Durban harbour killing a large population of fish and destabilizing aquatic ecosystems(10). Groundwater pollution research conducted in the Western Cape indicated that there were increased levels of toxic minerals in groundwater samples due to seepage from the wastewater treatment plants. Many studies investigating these problems traced the pollution of water resources to design weaknesses, overloaded capacity, and faulty equipment and machinery of municipal wastewater and sewage treatment plants (11).