Sewage Treatment in South Africa

Municipal Sewage Treatment Alone Cannot Meet Requirements in South Africa

A report compiled jointly by the Water Research Commission and South African Local Government Association in 2014 suggests that the ability of municipalities to maintain the standards of wastewater treatment required may be approaching a “tipping point”. The report stated that almost 45% of the plants covered by the study were employing technology that lacked the capacity to meet the required effluent quality. In addition, a lack of trained personnel and the use of consultants based upon tender prices rather than experience were also compromising service quality in some cases. Finally, in almost all cases, the annual municipal budget allocations for water treatment plants fell substantially short of the sums needed to finance their urgently needed upgrading.

While these contingencies will need to be dealt with by the appropriate authorities and, perhaps to some degree, by the nation’s electorate, there are steps that may be taken by the consumer to ensure that sewage treatment in South Africa remains on the right side of that threatened “tipping point” until the municipal services are better equipped to cope with the rising demand. Wherever human beings gather en masse, there is always a need to dispose of bodily and liquid waste from other sources safely and effectively.

Even in the home of an average family, the water from toilets, hand basins, showers and baths, dishwashers, and washing machines can add up to hundreds of litres per person each day. The effluent from flush toilets contains urinary nitrogen as well as faecal matter heavily contaminated by coliform bacilli and is termed black wastewater. Water from other sources is less of a biological hazard but frequently contains chemical residues from soaps, detergents and fabric softeners and is known as grey wastewater. Add to this the waste from hospitals, schools, hotels, office blocks, and similar establishments and it is not hard to understand how adequate sewage treatment in South Africa has steadily become more of a problem.

What steps can consumers employ to help overcome this problem? To the suburban homeowner, it may sound a little trite to suggest a DIY solution, but those living on farms and in rural areas are quite familiar with the concept and have been using septic tanks and soakaways since they settled in these locations. Anaerobic digestion eliminates some of the waste but, inevitably, some leaches into the surrounding soil and there is a risk that wells and boreholes could be contaminated. Music festivals and agricultural shows often provide chemical toilet facilities but both waste and chemicals still need to be safely disposed of when the events are over.

There is now a highly effective DIY sewage treatment available in South Africa from Bio Sewage Systems. The system is not only capable of treating both black and grey wastewater safely and economically, but of also providing an end product that is of sufficiently high quality that it can reused in various useful applications. Operating without the need for costly chemicals and with only the minimum of electrical power these units rely, like nature itself, upon the process of bio-digestion. During this process, benign microorganisms feed off nitrogenous and other biological nutrients in the solid and liquid components of the wastewater, rendering it free of any potentially harmful pathogenic organisms and providing an output that is both clear and odourless.

The process, consisting of aerobic and anaerobic digestive stages, takes place in tanks of varying capacity starting with the domestic “Flush n Spray” range with three models able to process from 2000 to as much as 15 000 litres per day. For commercial and industrial use, the modular designs offer a scalable solution that allows users to expand their installations to keep pace with an increase in demand. Where mobility is required, Bio Sewage System also offers the option of a system housed in a mobile, compartmentalised steel container.

The financial benefit of a sewage treatment system that allows households and businesses in South Africa to reuse wastewater for tasks such as washing vehicles and equipment, or irrigation, to name just a few, is clear given the steadily rising tariffs. However, the more responsible use of this vital resource also helps to conserve our much-needed and seriously threatened reserves.