Sewage hitch ‘not serious’

2012-07-23 00:00

PROBLEMS at Pietermaritzburg’s Darvill wastewater treatment works are not as serious as they are made out to be, Umgeni Water has reported.

The Witness probed the matter after being told that a crisis was on the cards because two digesters — used to treat waste — are not fully operational.

One digester was taken offline last year to be emptied for inspection and maintenance, while the second allegedly broke down and had to be fixed earlier this month.

Sources claimed this has led to unstable sludge being poured on to land near the plant. If there was heavy rain, they warned, the sludge could flow into the Duzi River.

One source said the anaerobic digestion process — a series of processes in which micro-organisms break down biodegradable material — had completely failed and the methanogenic bacteria — which break down the sludge, making it harmless and neutralising the smell — was also not working, and the land at the works was being irrigated with unstable sludge.

Doug Burden, of the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust, said the trust had been informed of the problem, but had not been able to visit the site. “If the sludge flows into the river, it will make the alien plant problem worse and, more importantly, affect the health of people and animals that drink that water.”

Shami Harichunder, corporate stakeholder manager at Umgeni Water, said work at the plant had not been affected. He said the digestion issue was being monitored and that only half the normal sludge was being poured on to the land.

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