Come the end of this month (January) the SA Army Engineer Formation will end its involvement in the Vaal river clean-up, with Gauteng-based East Rand Water Company (ERWAT) moving in.
The presence of military engineers on and around the Vaal River particularly in the Emfuleni area followed a call in Parliament by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni for an urgent clean-up and repairs to damaged and vandalised water purification infrastructure.
The deployment started in October 2018 and was originally set to finish a year later. It was then extended by a further three months to January.
“Various Engineer Formation units and regiments under the command of Colonel Andries Mahapa with more than 500 Sappers, both full-time and Reserve Force, deployed on a rotating basis,” according to the Corporate Communications Directorate of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
“An assessment by an intervention team in October 2018 indicated military engineers had to clear primary settling and humus tanks as well as repair desludging pipes, unblock sewer lines and manholes. Other work was painting of exposed iron and steel on bridges and clearing blocked domestic sewage lines as well as maintaining and/or reinforcing security walling at treatment plants.”
The SANDF goes on to say “informed specialists commended the Sappers for demonstrable progress in the deployment.” This reportedly “served” as the launching pad for the appointment of ERWAT, “a government entity specialising in waste water treatment”.
While the military engineers were on site they unblocked a previously clogged sewage system that spilt into streets and the Vaal River. Sappers also brought seven pump stations back to operational levels and their successors will have to do the same to a further 24 pump stations, some of which work but are in need of more maintenance to ensure full operation.